Cracking down on “offensive” vanity plates, one state ordered a driver to remove his plate or suffer the consequences. The motorist came forward to ask if others find anything wrong with his plate.
Maine resident Peter Starostecki has cultivated a life that revolves around his personal views on health, education, and social issues. He was even elected to the city council after advocating for special needs children, including his own. However, one aspect of the avid protestor’s lifestyle caused the state to step in.
As a staunch vegan, Starostecki not only abstains from animal products himself but protests against such consumption every chance he gets. So, when he realized he could personalize his license plate to demonstrate his passionate position, he jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, his choice of letters would land him in hot water with the government.
Initially, Starostecki’s request to express his love of tofu was approved. However, once Maine decided to crack down on plates that could be perceived as inappropriate, his car became a quick target. As it turns out, “LUVTOFU” would not only be interpreted as “love tofu,” but some were also reading the indistinct bundle of letters as “love to f— you,” according to AP.
Of course, Starostecki rejected the claim that his plate contained a sexual reference. Instead, he insisted that it was his way of advocating for a vegan lifestyle.
“It’s my protest against eating meat and animal products,” Peter Starostecki said after a Zoom session with a hearing examiner for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Starostecki’s “LUVTOFU” was one of 274 plates banned by the state. Additionally, the government rejected every one of his appeals to keep his vanity plate. He was offered a replacement plate spelling the word “vegan” with a “3” for the “e,” but he opted for a regular plate instead.
The tofu-loving dad wasn’t the only one who disagreed with the legislation. According to Heather Libby, she and her best friend were forced to return their matching license plates because the letters spelled out an offensive word, which they say is used to describe a female dog.
“People are so sensitive nowadays,” said Libby, of Jonesport, after a hearing examiner rejected her appeal. “I just think it’s foolish.”
Libby later chose another vanity plate that was approved by the state. The letters honor her dog, Zeus. However, she still worries the name might spark offense as well.
“That could be offensive to someone because it’s a Greek god,” she quipped. “But I hope not.”
Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said she supports freedom of speech, but she claimed that this freedom doesn’t extend to state-issued license plates, the New York Post reported. She added that bumper stickers can be used to express one’s personal views.
“We have a public interest in keeping phrases and words that are profane or may incite violence off the roadways,” she said.
While many don’t like the state furthering its reach, some argue that the ban is warranted because of the nature of certain plates. Others insist that the ban is a violation of the First Amendment.
Of course, there will still be some plates that slip through the cracks because they are not as obvious. However, Peter Starostecki’s tofu-loving vanity plate won’t be one.