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ACLU License Plate Lawsuit Challenges State’s Effort to Quash Political Statements Opposing One-Party Regime

One might be inclined to think that the ACLU’s lawsuit against the state for denying vanity license plates on the basis of “poor taste” is a frittering at the fringes of South Dakota’s real problems of cultural oppression and economic malaise. I mean, really, with women denied reproductive autonomy, Indians excluded from economic opportunity, and babies dying at the second-highest rate in the nation, is fighting for a right to put “GOTPSSY” or “FJB” on one’s license plate really the best use of the ACLU’s resources?

But the lawsuit’s political significance lies in its challenge against “viewpoint discrimination“:

The lawsuit follows a letter from the ACLU to Houdyshell and Attorney General Marty Jackley in late August that demanded a reevaluation of denied vanity plates and challenged the  constitutionality of the law and accompanying policy guidance that allow the state to issue denials for plates dubbed “offensive to good taste and decency.”

The letter pointed to 2,135 denied plates and claimed that about 32% had been denied based on what the organization characterized as “viewpoint discrimination.”

…[Flandreau activist Lynn] Hart’s current business, the lawsuit says, is “Rez Weed Indeed,” which “supports and promotes the legal selling and use of Medical and Recreational Marijuana on all Federally recognized Indian reservations.”

He applied for a “REZWEED” license plate in May of 2022 to “to raise awareness of his business and its message of Tribal Sovereignty,” but was denied a plate. Months later, in September, the lawsuit says, a separate DMV employee reviewed his plate application and approved the plate.

Because state law and policy allow for the state to recall plates issued “in error,” the ACLU argues, Hart’s constitutional rights – and those of others who’ve been denied or had their plates recalled – have been violated by the state [John Hult, “ACLU Sues State Over ‘REZWEED’ Vanity License Plates,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.11.06].

The vanity license plate in question wasn’t dirty, racist, or violent; it simply promoted two things the one-party regime in Pierre doesn’t like: Indians and marijuana. If the state is going to allow people to express themselves on license plates, the state doesn’t get to pick and choose which political statements vanity-plate buyers may make.

Given the hypersensitivity of the one-party regime to opposition messages, it may well decide giving up $25 per vanity plate is a small price to pay for ridding itself of such messages under the imprimatur of official state license plates.


  1. All Mammal 2023-11-09 07:32

    Freest state in the nation? Liar! We have state pens bursting at the seams and our vanity tags are censored. It is about time to call it what it is: corrupt, mean and stupid, ruled by fascist cops and maga politicians.

  2. Donald Pay 2023-11-09 08:31

    Ban vanity plates, and get rid of dumb lawsuits. I’ve never understood the idea of giving the state more money than it gets for ordinary plates. I’ve also never understood the concept of government forced speech in the AG’s explanation for initiative petitions. That’s a far worse incursion on free speech, because it is important political free speech the AG is squelching, not someone’s vain attempt at humor or grandiosity.

  3. O 2023-11-09 09:01

    Freest state for white males (as recognized at birth and stay that way) nationalist theocrat MAGA conservatives. Cash in your pocket also gets you a little more freedom.

  4. LCJ 2023-11-09 09:51

    Sorry, but if you went to school with Lynn Hart as I did, you would see what a horrible person he is and you definitely would not come to his defense.
    Adopted by liberal but well meaning parents he always used his race to defend his abhorrent life style including but not limited to theft of drinks and money left on bar tops, “borrowing cars” and extorting his classmates at his class reunion for drinks in the name of racism.
    He truly is not worth defending in any way.

  5. larry kurtz 2023-11-09 09:56

    $20 says the ACLU will win this case.

  6. larry kurtz 2023-11-09 10:02

    So, liberal = well meaning.

  7. bearcreekbat 2023-11-09 10:40

    LCJ’s comment about Lynn Hart doesn’t square with the ACLU philosophy nor the ACLU’s view of a constitutional right. That right applies to everyone, not just those folks that are popular, liked, respected, or share the ACLU’s opinions.

    While I don’t know Hart, and I don’t particularly agree with the ACLU’s choice to defend any particular language on a vanity plate, I understand why they have made this decision and I highly respect the ACLU’s reasoning and values. Indeed, perhaps standing up for Hart’s choice of expression is not really substantively much different than the ACLU standing up for 16-year-old Christopher Eckhardt’s opposition to continuing the war in Vietnam by wearing a black armband to school.

  8. Bob Newland 2023-11-09 15:21

    Perhaps Lynn is a different person today than he was then. Not that his right to put rezweed on his license plate should depend on how nice a guy he is.

  9. grudznick 2023-11-09 16:48


  10. Todd Epp 2023-11-09 20:13


  11. grudznick 2023-11-09 20:25

    I would have guess you were SLFH, Mr. Epp.

  12. Todd Epp 2023-11-10 11:02

    Grudz, that was already taken. 😁

Comments are closed.