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State agency denies Oklahoma man’s request for license plate supporting gay community

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OKLAHOMA -- A debate over the term "LGBT" is heating up at a state agency.

A metro man says the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) is violating his freedom of speech by shutting down his request for a personalized license plate.

Now he's protesting the decision and wants a judge to decide what he can put on his car.

Dr. John Keefe is a vocal supporter of the gay community, and he wants to show that support on a personalized license plate that reads: LGBTALY, or LGBT ally. He applied for the plate in December.

"I had actually sent out a second application because I thought the initial application had gotten lost because I hadn't heard anything," Keefe said.

It wasn't lost.

He got a denial letter from the OTC saying the plate "carries a sexual connotation," which is against commission rules.

"I was shocked, and I was dismayed that the prejudice and discrimination and the uneducated, fearful bigotry shown by the Oklahoma Tax Commission in the 21st century would still be taking place," Keefe said.

Keefe is a heterosexual man with a wife and kids, but he feels there is too much discrimination against the gay community in Oklahoma. He says he's been disappointed in recent anti-gay bills proposed in the state legislature, and argues the license plate is a matter of free speech.

His attorney agrees and says the term "LGBT" has evolved into much more than being sexual.

"I think when the tax commission hears evidence and information from persons who study and teach and research it is more of a social/political term, then they'll change their minds," attorney Charles L. Broadway said.

The American Civil Liberties Union released this statement regarding the denial.

"To pretend that “LGBT” is sexually explicit merely because it refers back to sexual orientation is to insult and trivialize an identity deeply personal to thousands of Oklahomans and attempt to censor advocates for LGBT equality. Whether this was done inadvertently, out of incompetence, or deliberately out of prejudice remains to be seen. The Commission now faces a choice. It can do the right thing and correct its gross error or it can choose to make a court force it to comply with both the United States Constitution and common sense."

An OTC spokesperson reiterated to NewsChannel 4 Monday afternoon what was in Keefe's denial letter.

A hearing is expected by the end of the summer.

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