For the first time, "GAYPRIDE" is available as a vanity license plate in North Carolina. It’s one of over 200 terms that were removed from the state's prohibited plates list after a review late last year. 

The document, known as the Do Not Issue list, contains over 9,000 items that state officials deemed too indecent to be printed on personalized license plates. As recently as last year, it included “GAYPRIDE,” “LESBIAN,” and “QUEER” – entries that prompted DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin to launch a formal review of the list for the first time in its two decade history. 

“Anything on the do not issue list should not include the LGBT community," says Goodwin. "I don't know how long the terms that relate to the LGBT community were on that list. But with my administration they are coming off.” 

A group of employees at the department’s vehicle services division gave the list a once-over first. They then referred entries they thought were questionable to a formal review committee made up of communications and legal staffers from the state’s Department of Transportation and its Office of Civil Rights. They agreed to remove 239 terms, including over two dozen related to the LGBT community. 

Several others didn’t make the cut though. “BISEXUAL,” “GAYLIB,” and “GAYS0K” are all still on the prohibited plates list. Language related to reproduction like “BRESTFEED” and “OVARY” weren’t removed either. Nor were “BLACKPWR” or “BLCKPRYD.” 

Goodwin says that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t ever be taken off the list. He says the review process is ongoing and the department welcomes feedback from the public. 

“Things can slip through," says Goodwin. "My aim is to be consistent with our approach, no plates of hate in this state.”

Goodwin says achieving that goal also means recalling offensive vanity plates that were issued by mistake. His office has recalled eight plates recently after receiving complaints from the public. All were antisemitic terms, some spelled in nontraditional ways. 

“Folks are crafty and conniving with the combination of letters," says Goodwin. "And then there are folks who say that, 'Well, this is the name of my child,' but the name of their child happens to be a name that in general parlance is not considered a name, but is considered offensive.”

Goodwin says some people have refused to surrender their plates, and his office has had to involve law enforcement to get them back.

Members of the public can suggest items that should be removed from the “Do Not Issue” list or report offensive plates on the Division of Motor Vehicles website. 

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