On this wet afternoon, I am sat in my front room watching the Christmas traffic steadily fly back and forth. White lights, red lights, spray and drear. I have long had a fascination with number plates; their letters and numbers locking up secret codes about a car’s age and place of birth, all appeasing my (obsessive) desire for good old fashioned rank and order. In Europe, plates are on the whole nothing much to look at. One thing our cousins across the pond have got right is their more relaxed approach to number plates as an expression of a region or state’s personality: New York proudly proclaims itself as the Empire State complete with a silhouetted NYC skyline, whereas Idaho resumes its proud farming prowess with the tagline “famous potatoes”. Yes, potatoes.
Please be patient, I am going somewhere with this. We all know that in Britain, one can shell out a little extra cash to the DVLA in exchange for a personalised plate, invariably something along the lines of ‘SS55 EXY’, ‘M10 NEY’ or ‘FA57 CAR’. Once again, the yanks have also trumped us in this regard. If you are a resident of Maryland or South Carolina, you can pay a little extra for a plate that has a little more social responsibility than the Wayne Rooney-style twattery mentioned above. LGBT welfare and equality groups in these two states have managed to get an LGBT license plate approved by their respective DMVs. Therefore, a driver can choose to pay for a special plate with proceeds going towards funding outreach activities, counselling, community events and all round good deeds that help to foster a sense of acceptance and equality across the state. A wonderful idea.
There was in-fact a third state to offer a LGBT plate. In Indiana, the scheme came up against stiff opposition where the American Family Association took offence at the state government seeming to be LGBT forward. Needless to say, a special “In God We Trust” plate also offered by the state is, of course, not a problem for the AFA. Indiana republicans, outraged at the fact that a massive $25 per plate went to a beneficial LGBT cause, fought tooth and nail to find an excuse to have the plates revoked. In the end they won, and the plate is no longer offered to the public.
LGBT issues in the US have recently come under heavier scrutiny from the media, political sphere and public opinion. Rights often seem to take one step forward and two steps back, with positive moves swiftly knocked back by a vocal bible-bashing minority. None of the three plates overtly say anything about helping an LGBT cause, it was a miracle that the word ‘equality’ was even allowed. How anyone can begrudge a charitable organisation any form of income is beyond me, but hey. I’m not an American.