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Gay Oklahoma student sues agency over denied tag request

BY NOLAN CLAY Modified: February 13, 2010 at 11:56 am •  Published: February 13, 2010

A college student wants IM GAY on his Oklahoma car tag, and he is suing to force state tax officials to approve his request.

"I want to tell people who I am and what I am. I’m proud of it. I’m openly gay. I’m not hiding,” said Keith Kimmel, 28, of Norman. "What better way to tell everybody than to put it on the back of a car?”

The Oklahoma Tax Commission turned Kimmel down last year because of an internal rule against special license tags that "may be offensive to the general public.”

Kimmel points out officials allowed tags such as STR8FAN and STR8SXI. "They defended using ‘straight sexy.’ … They didn’t think that one was inappropriate but yet ‘I’m gay’ is. I think it’s kind of a double standard,” said Kimmel, a political science/pre-law student at Oklahoma City Community College.

In his lawsuit, filed Wednesday, Kimmel asks Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich to order tax officials to grant his application for the IM GAY tag. His attorney contends the Tax Commission’s rule violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s guarantee of free speech.

The attorney, Brittany Novotny, calls it "viewpoint discrimination.”

The Oklahoma Tax Commission has issued more than 54,000 personalized tags, a spokeswoman said. Tax officials Friday declined comment until after they could review the lawsuit.