“Umph Love, Free Speech, and Victory over the VA DMV”

We got a lot of fan email at UM HQ & occasionally like to share our favorites. This one gave us a good laugh so we thought we’d share this note from fan Luther Blevins. Enjoy! 

This story is one of Umph Love, Free Speech, and my victory over the VA DMV.

In May of this year I applied for a custom license plate tag: UMPH LVE. I was so excited and proud to shortly be displaying my UMPH LOVE to the world. However, in June I got home from work and opened the attached letter from the DMV stating my tag request had been rejected after review. “Say what!?”, I thought. The next morning I called the number to see if I could find out why. That is when the frustration really began.

I spoke to a lady who helps handle the decisions. I was told the tag was rejected due to UMPH being a derogatory term. I couldn’t believe it! I had to do some searching on google to see what that was all about, as I had never heard “umph” being used in any such manner. Sure enough, on Urban Dictionary some people had listed it as a derogatory term. So, I told the lady I didn’t agree with the decision, what it meant to me, and also that I didn’t agree with the VA DMV using something like Urban Dictionary to reject my plate. If nothing else, because you can google my exact plate wording and Umphrey’s McGee is the first result. She said it was still rejected.

After sitting and stewing over it all day, I called her back. I asked for the number to her supervisor or someone that could review the plate request. She gave me that info and another call ensued. This new lady basically said the same thing and said it was rejected – that is that. At this point I was very upset about my free speech being violated and my Umph Love being stifled. I got off the phone with her and started researching and gathering info on free speech cases and the DMV. After gathering some information I could use, I called her back. I requested that they review my plate again and referenced ACLU free speech cases against DMV locations – none of which have won against the ACLU. She then said they would review it considering my statements and information regarding the real meaning of the tag. The next day I got a call from her office. My tag was approved! VICTORY, for Umph Love! I received my tag in the mail today, finally!