ILVTOFU Can Be Seen As Obscene, Dept. Of Revenue Says
Is that a statement professing a vegetarian's love of curdled soybean milk or an obscene statement?
The Colorado Department of Revenue said it could be viewed as the latter, and won't allow a Centennial woman to personalize her license plate with the phrase ILVTOFU.
Kelley Coffman-Lee, a mother of three, said she believes the Department of Revenue missed the intended healthy message, "I-LV-TOFU," and misread it as the far steamier "I-LV-TO-F-U."
"I love tofu; it doesn't mean anything bad," Coffman-Lee told 7NEWS Tuesday.
She said she stopped consuming any animal products four years ago, and was a vegetarian for nine years prior to that.
"I'm very expressive. I'm anti-fur, anti-rodeo, anti-circus when they come to Denver, and I thought, 'Here's a chance to be positive and say I love something," Coffman-Lee said.
She explained she got the idea after hearing about a woman who was denied from customizing a similar plate in California.
When she received initial approval, Coffman-Lee said a friend with the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal offered to have the organization pay the $60 fee.
Word came later through a phone call that the request had been rejected because some might find it obscene, she said.
"Tofu is a word. I haven't said anything bad. I think it's crazy they denied it," said Coffman-Lee.
"It's not a dirty, evil food. It's very wholesome," she added.
"We have nothing bad to say about (Coffman-Lee's) love of tofu," said Mark Couch, spokesman for Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles. "We’re concerned about others who may misread the plate."
Couch provided 7NEWS with a copy of the state statute 42-3-211(5) relating to the issue. It reads, "There shall be no duplication of registration numbers, and the department may refuse to issue any combination of letters or numbers that carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency, are misleading, or duplicate any other license plates provided for in this article."
Couch added the Department of Revenue utilizes a review panel to assess applications for vanity plates. The F-U combination is not allowed under established guidelines, Couch said.
The panel has also devised a list of 250 prohibited three-letter combinations that may arise on randomly issued license plates. (See listing of 3-letter configurations banned by state.)
Controversy over clever combinations on plates is nothing new at DMV offices across the country.
"Let me reach for my, 'neverending story’ file," chuckled Tom Jacobs, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Jacobs said Coffman-Lee's plate would likely be approved under Nevada's Revised Statutes.
"Because it's in context," Jacobs told 7NEWS. "The letters F-U are not banned across the board. They can be connected to other words that are acceptable."
Jacobs said the question considered is, "How is someone going to respond?"
He added a board was recently created to evaluate license plate complaints in Nevada.
One such plate reading, 3RDFNGR, was disallowed because of it’s reference to an obscene gesture.
A DMV official from Oregon said the issue has gone all the way to the supreme court.
Dave House, spokesman for Oregon's DMV said one driver, who was a wine connoisseur, was prohibited from having "VINO" on his license plate because of its potential suggestion of drinking and driving.
The high court ruled in the DMV's favor, citing that the state owns the plate, House said.
"We can let the public have some flexibility and still apply standards to it," he said.
House, who sits on a panel of staff members that reviews application requests in Oregon, added he would likely deny Coffman-Lee’s ILVTOFU vanity plate.
PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said the Colorado Department of Revenue should reconsider the request.
"The DMV could do a lot of good by reconsidering its decision and allowing more people to discover the joy of soy," Reiman said.
Coffman-Lee said she can't imagine people complaining about her license plate.
"Anyone who'd call-in about that needs to get a life," she said.
While she doesn't intend to take her issue to court, Coffman-Lee said she has no plans to stop voicing her opinions -- about tofu or anything else.
"I think I'll stick with the number combination right now and get more bumper stickers," she said.