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ACLU Goes to Court Over Specialty License Plates

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The American Civil Liberties Union’s Indiana Chapter is taking the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to court over the BMV commissioner’s role in denying specialty license plates to a gay youth support group.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles revoked the Indiana Youth Group’s specialty license plates in March of 2012 because the organization improperly gave away some of its plates, a violation of its contract with the state agency. 

IYG filed an appeal and an administrative law judge overturned the BMV’s decision.  BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell then stepped in, halting the judge’s ruling and sending the case back to the judge for further clarification. 

ACLU-Indiana legal director Ken Falk says his organization is now filing a lawsuit on behalf of IYG, asking the federal court to keep Waddell out of the case.

“The commissioner issued the decision in 2012 revoking the license plate and then here we are in 2013, the commissioner is sitting as the judge,” Falk said. “And if there’s one clear principle of due process it’s that any decision maker has to be impartial and by definition you are not impartial if you made the original decision.”

IYG Executive Director Mary Byrne says she just wants the whole process to be over.

“It is getting to be very vindictive at this point,” Byrne said. “I just feel like they’re out to get us no matter what.”

A BMV spokesman says the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.