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Does the First Amendment Cover Vanity License Plates and Bumper Stickers Like ‘Assman’?

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In Seinfeld, the character Kramer mistakenly receives a vanity license plate that reads “ASSMAN.”

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who haven’t submitted multiple unsuccessful applications for “ASSMAN” Saskatchewan license plates, and Dave Assman. After the surnominally blessed Canadian’s latest attempt was rejected on appeal earlier this month, Assman—whose smirking pride in his family name is unattenuated by its actual pronunciation (“Oss-men”)—designed and printed a massive fake “ASSMAN” license plate onto his pick-up truck’s tailgate, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports. “Even if it wasn’t my last name who is it going to hurt?” Assman asked the National Post.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance, the agency that issues license plates for the province, apparently sees it differently. According to Michigan State University constitutional law professor Kevin Saunders, Canada’s free speech laws are relatively weak compared to those in the United States.

In a particularly ribald episode of Seinfeld, the character Kramer is mistakenly issued a proctologist’s vanity plates that say ASSMAN, but in the non-fiction world, could an American pull a Kramer? Does banning vulgarities from vanity plates violate the First Amendment? Could you be an ASSMAN?

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