Note: we are republishing this story which originally made the news in April 2016.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s system rejected the application for a special interstate transport license from Gene King, a Georgia cattle farmer, because his address contained “a banned word.” King lives in Gay, Georgia.
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Gay, Georgia was founded in 1882, incorporated in 1907 and named after William F. Gay. Approximately 100 people live in the community, which is about 40 miles south of Atlanta. The sixth-generation descendants of the original founders of the town host the Cotton Pickin’ Fair, a high-profile agritourism event in Georgia.
King recently applied for a premises number through through the USDA, which allows him to buy and sell cattle across state lines. When he called to check on his status, King was told the system wouldn’t accept his application because it contains an “offensive word.” The USDA had a suggestion to work around this limitation, namely to change King’s hometown to “Bay,” which would be corrected manually back to “Gay” after having been granted approval.
“I don’t want to submit it as Bay, Georgia,” King said he told the government worker. “I want to submit it as Gay, Georgia because that’s where I live. And she said, ‘Do you want a number or not?'” He ultimately received his number, and the USDA changed the city back to Gay.
King says he told the USDA representative he thought it was ridiculous.
The USDA released a statement to explain this issue. In 2004, the Premises Identification Allocator was originally developed for the National Animal Identification System. As the program was reportedly contentious, IT developers were concerned that people may attempt to create inappropriate premises IDs to prove there was a problem with the program or its IT systems. So, the developers created a database of words with “bad connotations” that would be automatically prohibited from the system.
Since that time, the NAIS program has ended and been replaced by animal disease traceability regulations.
The government agency is working to upgrade the technology so “this will no longer be an issue.”
According to Fox 5 Atlanta, the USDA would not provide it with a complete list of the words with alleged “bad connotations,” nor who decided the word “gay” belonged on that list.
Sources: Fox 5 Atlanta, Explore Georgia / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons