Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 10, 2012

Judge: DMV can’t revoke offensive license plate

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A Chesapeake judge has ruled that the Department of Motor Vehicles shouldn’t have a revoked an Army veteran’s license plate that it said was offensive.

Sean Bujno’s personalized plate, “ICUHAJI,” was revoked last year because the DMV said it could be interpreted as socially, racially, or ethically offensive or disparaging.

The plate can be read as “I see you, Haji.” Haji is a derogatory term used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to refer to Arab people.

The Virginian-Pilot reports (http://bit.ly/XpPYID ) Circuit Court Judge John W. Brown said that if the state lets people praise religion or ethnicity on their license plates, it also must let them denigrate them. The DMV apparently was responding to a complaint when it revoked the plates after four years, Brown said.

“There are going to be people who will disagree with this opinion and there will be people who support it, but that is the beauty of this country,” said Andrew D. Meyer, an attorney for Bujno.

The DMV must now either return the license plate or find a permissible reason to keep them from Bujno.

A spokeswoman for the DMV told the newspaper that the department is still reviewing the judge’s 14-page opinion and that no decisions have been made.

Meyer said the plates weren’t intended to be offensive and that the term ‘Haji’ is also an honorific term for a person who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca, or the “hajj.”

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