License Plates Will Make You Gay

Back in 2006, I wrote:

[T]he amount of time the legislature spends on license plates is absurd. Like I said, we have more than 30 listed in the Indiana Code and I think there are a fair number of other plates issued under a BMV administrative procedure. Why don’t we just require every Hoosier to design their own individual license plate and be done with it. It’s government identification, not a fashion accessory.

Mike Kole had similar thought, put in a catchier way, “the license plate serves a particular function, and the bumper sticker goes on the bumper.”

Anyway, Indiana having gotten into the state endorsement of causes via license plate business, Rep. Jeff Thompson now wants a laundry list of causes the state can’t approve in this fashion:

(1) Use of illegal drugs.
(2) Use of tobacco or tobacco products by a minor.
(3) Sexual activity involving a minor.
(4) Sexual activity outside of marriage not in accordance with IC 20-30-5-13. (This pertains to school curriculum on abstinence and STDs & pregnancy)
(5) Use of pornography.
(6) Abortion.
(7) Disrespect for parents, the family, religion, healthy behavior, or good citizenship as described in: (A) IC 20-30-5-5; or (B) IC 20-30-5-6.
(8) The undermining of the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Indiana.
(9) The (A) undermining of the law; or (B) overthrow; of the government of the United States.
(10) A lifestyle that is contrary to: (A) IC 20-30-5-13; or (B) marriage between one (1) man and one (1) woman.
(11) The use of alcoholic beverages by an individual less than twenty-one (21) years of age.

Rep. Thompson’s proposed amendment seems to be of the “bury the lede” variety. The part about “marriage between one man and one woman” which I have put in bold seems to be the real point of the exercise. He either shares the anxiety of or is carrying water for the likes of Micah Clark with the American Family Association of Indiana (Caution: may not actually be beneficial to Americans or Families). Clark is irritated by the Indiana Youth Group license plate.

The Indiana Youth Group was “founded Founded in 1987 as a response to the needs of self-identified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning youth” and provides programs protecting the mental and physical health of Indiana’s LGBT youth. So, you know, just like illegal drugs, porn, and overthrowing the United States. But, Mr. Clark doesn’t like this kind of organization because of teh gay.

Somewhat of a digression, but it ties in pretty well I think, is an article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely entitled, “One Town’s War on Gay Teens.” that is absolutely infuriating. It tells of an area in Minnesota, the Anoka-Hennepin School District where the anti-gay culture has become oppressive. The school district had adopted a policy stating that “homosexuality not be taught/addressed as a normal, valid lifestyle.” This, apparently, tied the hands of teachers to do anything about the incessant bullying of gay students in an area where other students absorbed the antipathy of their conservative evangelical parents. Being different is going to get a kid bullied just about anywhere; but this place went to a whole new level, it appears, with particularly elevated suicide rates.

Clark and the American Family Association, to me, seem to be part of that small but vocal subset of Christians that wants to mark its territory – not for any kind of spiritual benefits it provides to its members or to the community at large, but simply as a display of that group’s dominance (which makes the periodic howls of persecution when they don’t get their way that much harder to take).

License plates aren’t really the place to fight the culture wars; but if we’re going to have “In God We Trust” and “Choose Life” and whatnot, then a plate that is devoted to an organization that tries to make the lives of LGBTQ a little easier certainly seems like fair game.

Outside of the specific license plate issue, here is where I fundamentally disconnect with members of the American Family Association: I do not believe sexuality is sinful; and I do believe that homosexuality is something intrinsic to individuals who are gay. Neither is a “lifestyle choice.” So much of the culture war seems to come down to sex; whether they’re screaming bloody murder about contraception or proclaiming the sanctity of life that seems to have no particular worth to them between birth and brain death or getting all twisted up about what the gays are up to (with an inordinate number of the culture warriors seeming to be closeted, self-loathing gays.)

If, somehow, we could come to see sex as an inherent part of human existence but not such a Big Deal, I think we’d see a reduction in both the hypersexualization in our culture and a toning down of the culture wars. Without the taboo, sex stops being such an effective hook for marketing: political, commercial, or otherwise. Also, too, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.


  1. says

    Wouldn’t section 11 (not to mention section 4) force the state to discontinue the college-themed plates? I would argue that it must, at least for renowned and recognized “party schools” like Ball State and my beloved IU.

  2. says

    Sometimes I just hate people sooooooo much. It’s a logical argument, though. If a license plate can make you a better Christian, then it follows that a license plate can also make you gay.

  3. says

    I should clarify that I view the logic as consistent. Not sound, humane, reasonable, or pretty much any other adjective with a positive connotation. “Consistent” is the nicest thing I can say.

  4. Carlito Brigante says


    Thank you bringing this bigotry and mean-spirited legislative maneuver to our attention.

    I will purchase an Indiana Youth Group license when I renew.

  5. Jack says

    Sometimes it seems impossible to find the words to adequately express the frustration with some folks and their “logic”. Ben’s statement about “consistent” maybe right on–“consistent” at being “inconsistent”. The citing of the state and national consitutions to support their positions. Now, basically I find the national consitution a fine document particularly when put into historic prespective of the affairs at the time of its being first written, but to find some who “consistently” cite the document then do a 180 as to positions on some issues. Example: Santorum says he believes Obama has not followed the consitution then says “Obama is not governing according to the bible”—what about the part which clearly establishes a separation of church and state. How about the state license plates promotiong “In God We Trust”? As I advance in age I find myself in a position of being less and less tolerant of the intolerant. There have always been dissent and that is okay until they seek to use the system of government that has promoted tolerance to legislate intolerance. Our modern communications systems allows for the extremes (left or right or whereever) to get headlines that promote uncomfortable philosophy while at the same time we condemn those around the world who seek to put their ideas into the law of the land there. Just frustrating!

  6. Paul Wheeler says

    Doug, you have made 2 mischaracterizations. No one has ever said sexuality is ‘sinful’ . Even religious teaching from most every quarter would claim sexuality is good, healthy, Biblical (“be fruitful & multiply”) and viewed as a beautiful & God-given. Secondly, the homosexual ‘intrinsic’ argument is not the ONLY viewpoint. It cannot be denied it can be a ‘choice’ as well. I’ve not heard or seen in print any allusion to conclude your title ‘License plates will make you gay’, unless you simply wanted to overstate the issue as a headline attention grabber.
    I can see items# 4,7,10 as being arguably in conflict with the promotion of this plate’s agenda, but there are far more serious things in life than the promotion of a metal plate message with which some disagree.

  7. says

    Paul, that would be “procreation” is healthy. Which is not at all what I’m talking about. If you are making the argument that no one says sex for pleasure is sinful, then I very much look forward to you making your case.

    And when did you choose to be heterosexual? (Assuming that’s your “lifestyle choice.”) I never made that choice. I just liked girls from the time I started registering an opinion about such things.

    • says

      I always prefer to look to the Bible rather than someone interpreting it.

      To me, the OT book “Song of Songs” doesn’t make mention of procreation, but it sure sounds like Solomon is ready to have a good time with his new wife!

      Song of Songs 7:1-10

      How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O noble daughter!
      Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand.
      Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine.
      Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies.
      Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.
      Your neck is like an ivory tower.
      Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
      Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, which looks toward Damascus.
      Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses.
      How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights!
      Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.
      I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit.
      Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.
      It goes down smoothly for my beloved, gliding over lips and teeth.
      I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.

      If all of his sexy talk was about having kids, I would have expected a verse or two about the dozens of fat children she was going have when he was done.

  8. T says

    This one is a two-fer. The other significant issue in this is abortion. One can purchase a license plate opposing the legal act of obtaining an abortion. But this bill aims to prevent one from expressing (through license plate purchase) support for that legal act.

  9. says

    I’d suggest reading the thoughts of one of the foundational thinkers of Christianity, St. Augustine of Hippo, and tell me whether you come away thinking that he recommended sex as good and healthy.

    He saw the desire of the sexual organs as, essentially, a sickness.

    See this article on the subject. (And, if you think the author is mischaracterizing Augustine’s thoughts, the author helpfully provides cites to the source material) .

    The effect of original sin on the human person is nowhere more evident than in humanity’s bondage to lust. Now, it is very important to note that Augustine uses the word “lust” in a very different way than we would use it. For Augustine, “lust” is not simply disordered sexual desire, such as objectifying sexual desire, but sexual desire itself (17). In other words, lust is any time a person “feels” sexual desire in her body before deciding rationally to engage in sexual intercourse. This is “evil” precisely because it is an example of the inferior body refusing to be ruled by the higher rational soul, which was the cause of sin in the first place. Sex is a prime example of disobedience both because during sex, “the pleasure is so intense that when it reaches its climax there is an almost total extinction of mental alterness;” in other words, “the intellectual sentries, as it were, are overwhelmed” and also because sexual desire can cause the genitals to disobey or act without the consent of the mind (16).
    . . .
    Importantly, Augustine thinks that lust, even when it occurs in the context of marital sexual intercourse, is even worse than anger because anger is an example of the higher part of the soul (the reason) failing to govern the lower part of the soul (the passions) while lust is an example of the soul failing to govern the body. Because the body is further down the chain of command than the passions–the passions are still a part of the soul–the body’s disobedience will be inherently much more evil than the disobedience of the passions. Importantly, since sexual desire and the orgasm are evil effects and signs of the Fall, neither would have been present before the Fall.

  10. Carlito Brigante says

    Most of the religious inculcation we received between 13 and 18 in our church involved the evils of sexual experimentation until some future point in time when it would no longer be fun. And would require a mortgage, a pledge to breed and the blessings of celibate old men.

  11. Nick says

    I’m boggled at how people saying “homosexuality is a choice” think they’ve given a reason that it’s okay to have state-sponsored discrimination against gay people. Even if I were to grant that being gay is 100% a choice (and I’m not), religion is a choice, too.

    Don’t like how the existence of gay people makes you worry about what your god thinks? Get a different god, then. Because it’s a choice. On the other hand, if we’re willing to concede that certain things which are 100% in the realm of choice are things that are so fundamental to a person’s sense of self and well-being that the government should respect and protect such choices, well then… Y’all should (1) cut it with that argument and (2) start respecting and protecting the choice to be gay.

    And of course, if being gay isn’t 100% a matter of choice the way that religion demonstrably is, then I think being gay has a better claim to government protection anyway.

  12. says

    Thanks for the reference, Doug. Here again, I think the proper thing is for government to cease with the vanity plates for organizations entirely. The main thing about them that I find objectionable is that here state government is acting as a fundraising device for private organizations. I don’t believe that to be the proper role of government, and I find it curious (if not typical) that the alleged conservatives didn’t start thinking of it this way until a gay group emerged to get in on the license plate action.

  13. Carlito Brigante says

    Your point is well taken, Mike. When the state effectively opens up a forum for expression (license plate fundraising), it would seem to be difficult to regulate the content of expression in that forum. (I am not up on first amendment jurisprudence where it related to organizational license plates, however.)

    If the license plates solely augmented a state purpose (like conservation license plates that funded natural resources projects or non-game or game wildlife matters) that would not open up a public forum.

  14. T says

    It’s isn’t just that the state is becoming a fundraising device for private organizations, though. By allowing only one side of controversial topics to have a plate, the state is making an endorsement of a particular viewpoint.

  15. says

    Your charge was “where I fundamentally disconnect with members of the American Family Association [is that] I do not believe sexuality is sinful.” Citing Augustine isn’t very convincing since he antedates AFA by a few years. I don’t know what the folks as AFA really think (last I looked, they were mightily fixated on sex in media), but I’m confident they’d deny thinking sexuality is sinful. And they’d mean their denial
    But if you want to write about Augustine’s view of sexuality, Book XIV, Chapter 22 of the City of God seems more relevant than the tortured exegesis at a website titled “Women In Theology.”

  16. varangianguard says

    Pretty sure I saw a State Representative (or Senate) plate that was melded with an “In God We Trust” plate. At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, as legislative plates have had their own unique design, but then it’s Indiana.

    Its number was a “7”. I imagine that makes it Brandt Hershman (R), or less likely David Niezgodski (D).

    And, the legislator pulled out in front of me in a “less than safe” manner, which is what caught my attention in the first place. Tsk, tsk.

  17. Buzzcut says

    Which commandment is “Thou shalt not commit adultery”? Certainly, some sex is sinful. Certainly, sex engaged in for pleasure, outside of marriage, is sinful, at least for Catholics, don’t know how the evangelicals feel about it.

    With all the societal chaos that is caused by irresponsible sex (and seeing as how the defacto failure rate of birth control is something like 10%, even those who are being responsible could be irresponsible if they are having sex with someone they are not prepared to have children with), we really need to be a little more Puritanical.

    Bullying is bullying, I don’t see why a school would make a distinction as to why the kid was being bullied. What’s the difference if the kid is gay or a geek?

  18. Don Sherfick says

    Buzzcut, you’re totally correct: Bullying kids perceived as “geeks” can be just as bad, and in some cases worse, than bullying kids perceived to be gay. But I’m not aware of any organized groups that claim their First Amendment rights are being trampled by laws that encourage tolerance of geeks.

  19. HoosierOne says

    Look, bullying is bad.

    But when a geek is bullied he has some semblance of belief that he will be supported and protected by his family, school, religious institution – a gay kid may find those environments even more hostile and not even report the abuse for fear of revealing what in his environment is the worst sin possible – his orientation.

    As Doug said, when did you choose to be heterosexual? Was that a conscious choice of did you one day just check out a girl’s boobs and spring a boner. In real terms, it’s that simple. Even the Catholic Church will admit that God created different orientations. (Now after that they get rather draconian…)

    Sex is good. Sex can be for procreation or recreation. It can be a root cause of evil if it’s practiced with abandon.. and living in a college town, we’re surrounded by abandon. But ultimately these are individual decisions which people have the right to make – and fail – and deal with the consequences. I don’t need a Rick Santorum-led American Taliban regulating condoms, etc.

    As for the plate – if I have to go down the road looking at “In God We Trust”… which is a religious viewpoint expressed on an official document… then a few rainbow hands shouldn’t bother the polito-Christians. Of course, since they think their domination and power are slipping we’ll have to listen to them whine … but I may just buy one of the plates to make sure they get more chances.

    Mike- this is one of the few places I agree with you. Maybe it’s time we get rid of ALL these license plates.. and let people put bumper stickers on again.

  20. nick says

    I propose a simple solution, one Doug alluded to (arguably, though hyperbole) already in his post:

    Lets do away with the notion of fashion plates. I ran IVFA plates when i was a volunteer fireman, from the time I was 16 until I was 24. The last 4 I have ran Purdue plates, mostly for lack of any other option. But I would give up either, for now and always, and go back to black lettering on a plain white plate, just to make sure that the “In God We Trust” plate goes away. There are plenty of ways for people to express their faith with their vehicle. They don’t need a state-sanctioned method, especially from a state that wants to ban the expression of ideas, beliefs, or customs at will.

    • says

      Not hyperbole. When I was at LSA, I drafted a lot of the license plate legislation and grew heartily sick of it. Just come up with a functional, uniform plate containing no editorial commentary about the world. Like Mike Kole said, keep the bumper stickers on the bumper.

      • nick says

        I was referring to the ” Why don’t we just require every Hoosier to design their own individual license plate and be done with it.” quip :)

    • says

      I think the part that affects the IYG plate is in the House Committee Report which, just at the moment, isn’t online; but I expect it will be shortly. Here is the link to the bill’s main page. The committee report and the reprinting incorporating the committee report should be available soon.

  21. Don Sherfick says

    My understanding is that the “morals criteria” in the rejected Thompson bill you wrote about the other day seemed just to obviously aimed at Indiana Youth Group, the measure that passed 8-2 this morning essentially scraps five year contracts between the Bureau and Motor Vehicles and about ten groups including IYG. (Isn’t there something in the Federal Constitution about that?) In good faith these groups have made out budgets expecting certain income and now that may be going out the window. But there may be hope: Now the General Assembly itself would be the “agency” that decides who can be in the program and who cannot. And since it’s controlled by you-know-who, its a George W. “slam dunk” that they will nave the smoothest of sailings. (:

    Don’t get me wrong…..apparently the BMV does have a problem on its hands with the proliferation of specialty license plates, and Mike Kole’s observations about the purpose of licesne plates has merit. But this is DEFINITELY NOT the way small not-for-profits of any stripe ought to be treated.


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