David DeVarti, who sued Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, agreed to a settlement that will allow him to request a personalized license plate reading "WAR SUX."
Johnson's office agreed not to enforce the "offensive to good taste and decency" restriction after U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist ruled the guidelines were too broad.
"Although the Department of State has adopted internal guidelines to augment the statute by providing some definite standards, the guidelines do no alleviate the potential for viewpoint discrimination," Quist ruled.
"In fact, the guidelines, which preclude combinations that are irreverent toward 'sacred things,' including God, and that negatively portray a given racial, religious, ethnic or socioeconomic group, including persons of a particular gender or sexual orientation, explicitly sanction viewpoint discrimination."
The lawsuit had initially been filed by DeVarti and Michael Matwyuk, whose request for a plate reading "INF1DEL" was also rejected, but the Secretary of State earlier relented in Matwyuk's case, saying the rejection had been an administrative error.
The state retains the right to reject plates deemed to be objectively offensive, but the settlement states the Secretary of State "shall not prohibit the word, 'sucks' and its variations such as 'SUX" and "SUKS" on the grounds that the word is sexual in nature, profane, vulgar or otherwise inappropriate when, in context, the word is being used as the slang term meaning 'is objectionable or inadequate.'"