Georgia to stop HA8, H8 on license plates

MACON, Ga. --- A central Georgia driver's discovery that his license plate contained an anti-Semitic message has prompted the state to stop issuing personalized or hobby plates that suggest the word "hate."

Frank Gumina told The Telegraph newspaper in Macon he was surprised when his auto mechanic asked him whether he were a "Jew hater." The mechanic pointed to the license plate on Mr. Gumina's 1974 Volkswagen Thing. It read: HA8 JWZ.

Mr. Gumina said he had to stare at it awhile before he understood.

"I guess I don't pay attention to the letters and stuff," he said.

Mr. Gumina called the Bibb County license tag office, and also called his preacher. His preacher called Rabbi Larry Schlesinger, who serves at Temple Beth Israel and is a Macon city councilman-elect. Rabbi Schlesinger called the Anti-Defamation League in Atlanta. And the Anti-Defamation League called state officials.

The upshot: the Georgia Department of Revenue has decided to no longer issue prestige plates -- also called vanity or personalized plates -- or hobby plates that start with HA8 or H8.

Mr. Gumina did not request his HA8 plate. He had asked for a Hobby Automobile plate for his old car. Such plates all start with HA and will continue to do so. The rest was random numbers and letters that spelled out something unintended, Department of Revenue spokesman Charles Willey said.

"The guy who got that plate, he was innocent," Mr. Willey said.

Bill Nigut, Southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement, "Allowing such tags encourages a climate of intolerance and hostility that is simply unacceptable."