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Norman Man Sues Tax Commission Over 'IM GAY' License Tag

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The Oklahoma Tax Commission turned down the request by Keith Kimmel last year for a tag saying "IM GAY," citing a rule against special license tags that "may be offensive to the general public," so Kimmel is suing the tax commission. The Oklahoma Tax Commission turned down the request by Keith Kimmel last year for a tag saying "IM GAY," citing a rule against special license tags that "may be offensive to the general public," so Kimmel is suing the tax commission.
"I want to tell people who I am and what I am. I'm proud of it. I'm openly gay. I'm not hiding," said Kimmel. He said his suit is to protect all Oklahomans' freedom of speech. "I want to tell people who I am and what I am. I'm proud of it. I'm openly gay. I'm not hiding," said Kimmel. He said his suit is to protect all Oklahomans' freedom of speech.

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- A Norman resident has sued to get a proclamation of his sexual preference on the Oklahoma license tag he displays on the back of his car.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission turned down the request by Keith Kimmel, 28, last year for a tag saying "IM GAY," citing a rule against special license tags that "may be offensive to the general public."

The political science-pre-law student at Oklahoma City Community College filed the suit last Wednesday in Oklahoma County District Court. His suit asks District Judge Noma Gurich to order tax officials to grant his application for the "IM GAY" tag.

His attorney argues that the Tax Commission's rule violates the Oklahoma Constitution's guarantee of free speech.

"I want to tell people who I am and what I am. I'm proud of it. I'm openly gay. I'm not hiding," said Kimmel. "What better way to tell everybody than to put it on the back of a car?"

Kimmel said in a press conference Monday officials allowed tags such as "STR8FAN" and "STR8SXI."

"They defended using 'straight sexy,"' said Kimmel. "They didn't think that one was inappropriate but yet 'I'm gay' is. I think it's kind of a double standard."

For example they've granted several tags that enforce the existence of a deity. I call it pro-religious plates, and then they've denied tags like ‘GODLESS,'" Kimmel went on to say.

His lawyer, Brittany Novotny, calls its "viewpoint discrimination."

The Oklahoma Tax Commission has issued more than 54,000 personalized tags, a spokeswoman said. In an administrative hearing last year, a Tax Commission attorney argued, "License plates -- even personalized license plates -- are not the private billboard for the person to whom they are issued. They are still a state license plate."

A Tax Commission employee denied during last year's hearing that "STR8SXI" was about sexual orientation, records show. "I think she's trying to say, 'I'm cute.' That's just how I personally interpreted it," the employee said of the tag owner.

Asked about the tag "VIBR8R," the employee admitted that could be interpreted as "vibrator."

"That definitely slipped through our process," the employee said.

The three tax commissioners in October upheld the decision to deny Kimmel's application. They said Kimmel failed to prove during the administrative hearing that his proposed tag would not be offensive to the general public.

Kimmel's lawsuit will now be heard in an Oklahoma County courtroom. He said he filed his case to protect the free speech of everyone in Oklahoma.

"Some people have asked is this going to let people put obscene things on tags. It will not. Oklahoma still has an obscenity law which prohibits the heavy seven...The seven curse words from being used," Kimmel said.

Keith Kimmel said he's pretty confident he'll win in court, but if he does lose before Judge Gurich, he'll take his fight as far as he needs to.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission spokesperson was unavailable for comment about the lawsuit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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