Judge reinstates license plate for Indiana Youth Group

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A specialty license plate stripped from a gay youth group has been reinstated.

According to Indiana Youth Group, an administrative judge with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles ruled in its favor during a hearing. Sales of the IYG plate were suspended last year after the group and two others were accused of “auctioning off” low-number plates. The group said it was offering those plates at different levels of giving as a “thank you” to donors.

What followed was a 14-month legal battle over the suspension of the plate. According to the judge’s ruling, IYG’s actions didn’t constitute a sale or auction of low-digit specialty plates. The ruling also said that the BMV failed to give the group 30 days’ notice and the opportunity to correct the problem before terminating the contract.

The ACLU of Indiana filed a motion for a summary judgment in October 2012. That hearing was continued four different times while IYG and the BMV negotiated a settlement that would restore the plate. On April 30, Gov. Mike Pence signed a new specialty plate bill into law, and the BMV withdrew its offer.

After that, Ken Falk with the ACLU of Indiana requested the scheduling of a summary judgment hearing.

“While the politics may not have been on our side through this process, we were always confident that the facts were,” said IYG’s Executive Director Mary Byrne. “We just wanted a fair shake from the state and a chance to sell our plates again. We got that chance from this judgment and we are incredibly grateful that our case was reviewed based on the merits and not a political agenda.”

Byrne said the revenue generated from plate sales is crucial for continuing the group’s programs. In the 10 weeks in which the IYG plate was on sale, the group sold more than 800 plates, generating $20,000 for the organization.

The dispute over the plate influenced a new law focused on specialty license plates. The law sets a cap on the number of plates the state can make available and also requires groups to sell at least 500 plates per year, among other regulations.