Women push for their own vets' plate
By MARK BRUNSWICK | The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune | Published: March 11, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS — A proposal to provide specialty license plates for women veterans in Minnesota is slowly making its way through the legislative process. It has stalled in previous years, but advocates remain hopeful.
Specialty plates have been a subject of debate in the Minnesota Legislature over the years, and lawmakers generally have been resistant to adding many more incarnations.
But advocates for these license plates argue that the plates would go a long way toward removing the invisibility that many women veterans feel, even among the well-meaning.
“This is not a vanity plate, it’s a values plate,” said veterans advocate Trista Matascastillo, a former Marine and a former member of the Minnesota National Guard.
It’s not uncommon for women veterans to feel slighted, even as the number of women veterans continues to increase. In Minnesota, there are an estimated 29,000 women vets, about 8 percent of the state’s veteran population.
At a recent hearing, West Point grad and Army and National Guard veteran Jill Troutner made the case for the plates as something visual that can’t be mistaken as recognition of anyone’s service but their own.
“Everyone notices a veteran’s plate, everyone assumes that it belongs to a man,” she told legislators. “For me, this license plate is a statement of value, that Minnesota, my state, values my contribution, my sacrifices and my patriotism in a highly visible way that will eliminate the need to explain to others that I am a military veteran.”
Minnesota was one of the first states to propose the plates, and now nine other states have adopted similar plates.
The bill, authored in the House by Rep. Jerry Newton, DFL-Coon Rapids, would establish the plates bearing the inscription “Woman Veteran.” A design would be worked out later. Women would pay the same $10 charged for all veteran plates to cover the costs. If approved, the plates would be available starting in January of 2015.