DMV settles lawsuit with SC transgender teen to wear makeup

    Chase Culpepper was born male but now identifies as transgender and refers to herself using female pronouns.

    COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - A 17-year-old from the Upstate has settled a lawsuit with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles that will allow the teen to wear makeup in the driver's license photo.

    Chase Culpepper was born male but now identifies as transgender and refers to herself using female pronouns.

    In March 2014, Culpepper wore makeup and clothes that were considered a disguise to the SCDMV to get her driver's license photo. The SCDMV told Culpepper the makeup had to be removed and the outfit needed to be changed to reflect a male persona.

    The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund filed suit on Culpepper's behalf in September 2014, calling the SCDMV's response humiliating and a violation of her civil rights.

    According to the TLDEF, "The suit asked the court to rule that denying Chase the freedom to wear her everyday makeup in her license photo constituted sex discrimination and violated her right to free speech and expression under the United States Constitution. It also argued that the SCDMVâ??s photo policy was unconstitutionally vague, too broad, and allowed DMV employees to arbitrarily decide how a driver's license applicant should look, including based on unconstitutional gender stereotypes."

    â??My clothing and makeup reflect who I am,â?? Culpepper said. â??The Department of Motor Vehicles should not have forced me to remove my makeup simply because my appearance does not match what they think a boy should look like. I just want the freedom to be who I am without the DMV telling me that Iâ??m somehow not good enough.â??

    TLDEF officials announced the settlement details Wednesday. No money is involved in the lawsuit. The policy will be that one can wear every day makeup regardless of gender to have their DMV picture taken. The settlement also allows Culpepper to retake her driver's license photo and dress however she likes.

    â??I am thrilled with the outcome of my lawsuit,â?? Culpepper continued. â??My clothing and makeup reflect who I am. From day one, all I wanted was to get a driverâ??s license that looks like me. Now I will be able to do that. It was hurtful to be singled out for being transgender and made to feel that somehow I wasnâ??t good enough. With this settlement, the DMV can no longer force transgender people to look like someone theyâ??re not. Iâ??m so glad that I stood up for whatâ??s right and helped make positive change for transgender and gender nonconforming people.â??

    â??I am very proud of Chase for having the courage to stand up to the discrimination she faced at the DMV,â?? said Chaseâ??s mother Teresa Culpepper. â??I love Chase just the way she is. Her victory will make the DMV experience much better for transgender and gender nonconforming people in the future.â??

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