By Diane Macedo
Published November 30, 2010
Texas Gadsden 'Don't Tread on Me' license plate
Fans of the Gadsden Flag may soon be able to display its familiar rattlesnake and "Don't Tread on Me" message every time they pull out of the driveway.
At least three states -- Virginia, Nevada and Texas -- are weighing or have already approved proposals to add "Don't Tread on Me" specialty license plates to their state rosters.
The Gadsden Flag, originally used by the U.S. Marine Corps during the American Revolution, was meant to represent the 13 original colonies and their battle for independence from the British monarchy. It has recently been adopted by some Tea Party groups as a message against big government.
Several supporters of the symbol say they will seek to have Gadsden plates available in other states throughout the country.
But critics say the flag's "Don't Tread on Me" message is political in nature, and has no place on any government-issued license plate.
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In Texas, the first state to propose and approve the plates, officials said they didn't have politics in mind, but simply getting more people interested in displaying specialty plates, which bring the state more money then regular plates.
"The Gadsden 'Don't Tread on Me' flag is a significant one to American and Texas history, and our market research, both formal and informal, shows that there's a lot of interest in Texas in state history," said Kim Miller Drummond, spokeswoman for Myplates.com, the company contracted by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to design, market and sell new specialty license plates in the state.
The plate was proposed this summer as part a flag series that also features the Texas flag and the Gonzalez "Come and Take It" flag, and will soon feature the U.S. flag, Drummond said.
The design was displayed for public comment on the state's Department of Motor Vehicles website, then voted on by the Texas DMV board on Nov. 9.
"Generally if a plate is not deemed to be offensive to public sensibilities," or too political, it passes, Texas DMV Public Information Officer Kim Sue Lia Perkes told FoxNews.com.
Despite its Tea Party ties, "Don't Tread on Me" made the cut.
"'Don't Tread on Me' isn't exclusive to the Tea Party. It's been around for a long time, so I think that the TxDMV, we would be inclined to look at it as a historical plate and not that we stepped into some kind of political debate," Perkes said.
A commission for the sale of each plate will go to Myplates.com, with the remaining proceeds going to the DMV. But not all Texans are on board.
"Please avoid political statements on state-issued plates ('Don't Tread on Me'). That's why we have bumper stickers," one post on the DMV comments page read.
"The don't tread on me flag has had its historical significance usurped by a movement with some extremist elements," another said. " I would hope that the state of Texas doesn't lend its imprimatur to this particular plate."
Still, backlash in Texas hasn't stopped other states from following suit.
On Oct. 14, Virginia House Delegate John M. O'Bannon III submitted a proposal to bring "Don't Tread on Me" plates to Virginia. Unlike revenue-sharing plates, which raise money for a specific organization, O'Bannon says any money raised by these plates will go straight to the Virginia DMV.
"Some people try to politicize it, but the nice thing about this symbol is that it has a very positive and patriotic heritage and a lot of people past the Tea Party folks think favorably of this and I think would like to have it," O'Bannon told FoxNews.com.
With more than the 300 committed buyers required to get a plate produced, O'Bannon expects Virginians will be able to get their "Don't Tread on Me" plates by July.
Nevada Assemblyman Ed Goedhart isn't so sure that his proposal to bring the Gadsden flag plate to his home state will pass, but he said he plans to do whatever he can to make it happen.
In Nevada, "if you can sell over a certain number of plates, you're allowed to have specialty license plates. So my bill would put the Gadsden flag as one of those specialty plates that would have to wait its turn to move up the list," Goedhart told FoxNews.com.
His proposal requests a hearing for the bill during the legislature's next session. He says he doesn't know whether the legislature will oblige, but he hopes it will pass the bill by late February. Part of the proceeds from the plates would then go to a nonprofit group that distributes pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution to high school students.
"I believe there are a lot of people that basically embrace the concepts of Constitution, limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets that our country was based upon and I believe there are a lot of people that would like to show their solidarity with those founding values by having a plate," Goedhart said.
A comment board on the topic shows that several supporters in other states agreed.
"I would like the symbol added to my Ohio 'Vietnam Veteran' plates," blogger Edward Benson wrote.
Other comments requested the plates be offered in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, New York, California, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Tennessee and Oregon. One commenter, Bob Russel, said he'd already written his state representatives to ask for them in Oklahoma.
"Patriotic Oklahomans should have the option of showing their patriotism through their license plates," Russel wrote in the letter.
For now, Gadsden fans in at least one state can start clearing off some bumper room for their new "Don't Tread on Me" Plates.
Myplates.com hopes to release the plates in Texas on Feb. 7, Drummond says.
By Diane Macedo