By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 23, 2007
Maryland Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. to truckers: If you've got 'em, you don't need to flaunt 'em.
As the General Assembly debates global warming and the death penalty, Myers (R-Washington) has something else on his mind: the outsized plastic testicles that truckers dangle from the trailer hitches of their pickups.
To some truckers, they are manly expressions of rural chic. But Myers, who says his Western Maryland district is brimming with giant fakes on the roadways, calls them vulgar and immoral -- and filed legislation this week to outlaw them.
"People are making a joke out of it," Myers said yesterday. "But I think it's a pretty serious problem. You have body parts hanging from the hitches of cars. We've crossed a line."
His bill would prohibit motorists from displaying anything resembling or depicting "anatomically correct" or "less than completely and opaquely covered" human or animal genitals, human buttocks or female breasts. The offense would carry a penalty.
A hunter could still throw a freshly killed and uncovered deer in the back of his pickup, though, because the deer's body parts would be real, Myers said.
Myers, 56, said he's trying to match the standards of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who has pledged to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. "We have a governor whose agenda is, 'Let's make us the best,' " the delegate said. "So let's clean up what our children are seeing on our roads."
Myers, a general contractor with four grown children, represents Washington and Alleghany counties in Maryland's most rural corner. He said he acted at the request of a constituent who was distressed by what he saw as he drove down a highway.
Since Myers submitted the bill Tuesday, it has been the brunt of jokes from radio and TV interviewers. "But my office has gotten 100 phone calls from grateful parents," he said.
Civil libertarians say the bill is misplaced. "The solution to speech we don't like is more speech," said Meredith Curtis of the Maryland American Civil Liberties Union. A sticker of the Venus de Milo statue would be illegal if the legislation passes, she said.
Myers's fellow lawmakers seemed bemused. "Hmmm. Is this what the framers had in mind?" Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery) asked jokingly.
The truck ornament industry is not amused. "It's not a perverted sexual thing at all," said David Ham, founder of Your Nutz, a San Diego-based business that sells more than 200 kinds of fake testicles. "It's a sense of humor. This lawmaker is looking out for two or three old women in tennis shoes. He's got too much time on his hands."
Ham said he shipped about 100 orders last year to customers in Maryland and Virginia. He said those who support a ban would do well to recall that 50 years ago, many people in the nation lived on farms. "Did all the little donkeys and sheep walk around with their panties on so children wouldn't see their bodies?" he asked.
The bill is now in the House Rules Committee. "I think it's a terrible bill," Chairman Hattie N. Harrison (D-Baltimore) said yesterday, but she agreed to defer to her colleagues on whether to let it die a quick death in committee or assign it to another one for a full debate.