Law to address dispute over license plates

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri's attorney general said Monday that a bill awaiting the governor's signature could aid the state in a 20-year legal battle over a woman's vanity license plate.

Responding to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Missouri lawmakers have passed legislation rewriting a state law with the intent of prohibiting the "ARYAN-1" license plate held by Mary Lewis.

The word "Aryan" is considered by some to be inflammatory because Adolf Hitler used it to describe what he considered a superior race.

Under a bill pending before Gov. Bob Holden, the state could revoke license plates that are deemed offensive or contemptuous of racial or ethnic groups.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said if the new legislation is signed, it would counter previous legal decisions made in Lewis' favor.

"This is a successful attempt to take what is vague language and strengthen it and make it more specific," Nixon said in an interview. "I think the step the Legislature took is clearly a direct reaction to the litigation."

Jerry Nachtigal, a spokesman for Holden, said the governor was reviewing the bill, most of which deals with automobile dealerships.

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