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Texas Man Forced To Relinquish ‘JAIL 45’ License Plates By State Order — Is It Censorship?

A man in Texas says his First Amendment speech rights have been curtailed due to the state’s DMV revoking his vanity plates that expressed dismay with the current administration.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Jerry Balkenbush, a Fort Worth Resident, purchased plates for his vehicle that read “JAIL 45” on them. “It’s more of a protest against the current president. I wanted to make sure that everybody knew where I stood,” the Air Force veteran said, per reporting from the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate.

Yet two weeks after plates were shipped to him (and already placed on his car), Balkenbush received notice from the Texas DMV that they were revoking the plates. He has 30 days to replace them.

The state cited a code for disseminating license plates that might be derogatory or offensive in nature. DMV rules allow the barring of plates that reference race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity, Raw Story reported. It also bars references to drugs, violence, or government agencies, the latter of which seems to be the source for why the state is recalling his plates.

Balkenbush said he feels like his speech rights are being threatened by the rule. Dallas lawyer Austin Pennington agrees.

“It’s absolutely a violation of his First Amendment rights to free speech, and what we have here is private speech in a government space. The license plate being the government space,” Pennington said.

Balkenbush said he plans to get new plates that read “OBAMA” instead.

Texas residents have traditionally supported Republican presidents in the past, and President Donald Trump is no different — in 2016, he won the state by a 9-point margin over Democratic Party opponent Hillary Clinton. However, that margin was tighter than the 2012 election, in which Republican Mitt Romney won the state by nearly 16 points.

Indeed, recent polling shows that Trump could be in trouble for his re-election chances in the Lone Star State. Polling from last spring showed that four Democratic Party contenders were statistically tied with Trump, as far as the 2020 general election goes.