A Murfreesboro woman was denied a personalized license plate because the state of Tennessee interpreted her message as inappropriate.
When Whitney Calk, a self-proclaimed animal lover and animal advocate for PETA, moved to Tennessee three years ago, she applied for a plate that would declare her love for the food tofu by reading, “ILVTOFU.”
She told News 2, “When it came time for me to get a new license plate it just made sense for me to use that as an opportunity to speak out [for] something that is really important to me which is being vegan and helping animals.”
“I filed my application, I mailed my check in the mail and assumed I would be getting my personalized plate in a few weeks but that’s not what ended up happening,” Calk recalled.
Instead, she got a letter in the mail telling her that her choice was not available.
Wanting to know why, Calk called and spoke to a representative at the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
“She let me know it was rejected due to vulgarity,” Calk said.
Calk wrote a letter to the department asking officials to reconsider but never got a response. She ultimately settled for a standard license plate.
“[I] don’t need another rejection from the DMV, that’s for sure,” she joked, adding, “It does make you wonder if there is a set of rules that everybody is following.”
News 2 contacted the Tennessee Department of Revenue to find out.
In a statement, the department said employees research whether requests are of “an obscene nature, gang related or unacceptable for a similar reason.” If so, it’s denied.
They also use tools like the online Urban Dictionary to help decide.
In Tennessee, state law prohibits the department from issuing plates that are offensive or misleading.
According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, people who are denied have the right to fight it and could “file suit if a resolution is not found.”
Calk didn’t sue and, according to the state, neither has anyone else in Tennessee.
News 2 asked the state for other examples of rejected requests but the department doesn’t keep a record and couldn’t supply any.