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Georgia OKs "GAYPWR" but bans sex acts, guns - on license plates

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A gay man will be allowed to order a vanity license plate that describes his sexual orientation, but Georgians' car tags must not refer to sex acts, weapons, drugs and much else under new rules issued by the state.

The regulations are part of a settlement on Wednesday between the state and Atlanta resident James Cyrus Gilbert, who sued Georgia after officials denied his request for a personalized plate that would read GAYGUY, 4GAYLIB or GAYPWR.

All three phrases sought by Gilbert were on the state's "bad tag" list, said the lawsuit, which claimed Georgia had violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

In settling the suit, the state allowed Gilbert to pick any of the three choices that were refused in January, said his attorney, Cynthia Counts. He has chosen GAYPWR, she said.

"He got the regulation changed, at least on the use of the word 'gay,'" Counts said on Thursday. "That to him is a victory. It was a good decision by the state to resolve that lawsuit."

The state agreed to pay $24,000 for Gilbert's legal fees.

The emergency regulation clarifies the standards for vanity tags in Georgia. It will expire in 120 days, and the state will hold public hearings on making the changes permanent, said Rick Gardner, supervisor of the Georgia Department of Revenue's tax policy office.

License plates can mention a sexual orientation but cannot disparage it or any religious beliefs, ethnicity, race or gender, according to the rules.

"Special prestige license plates will not be issued for letter/number combinations" that refer to sexual acts or body parts, bodily fluids, profanity, weapons, drugs, criminal activity and alcohol. The words "hate" and "suck" are also banned.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Gary Hill)

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