Transgender Teen Sues DMV Over Driver's License Photo

Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 12:18 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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A Columbia, South Carolina, 16-year-old filed has filed a lawsuit against the state's Department of Motor Vehicles after it refused to retake his driver's license photo with makeup.

Chase Culpepper, who regularly wears makeup and women's clothing and jewelry, told reporters Tuesday he was told to remove his makeup "to look more like a boy," according to WSOC TV.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Teresa Culpepper on behalf of her son, contends that by refusing to allow Chase to dress like a girl, the DMV violated his constitutional right to free speech and expression and the actions constitute sex discrimination, according to a release by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), which is representing the family.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks a ruling under the U.S. and South Carolina Constitutions that the DMV’s photo policy is "unconstitutionally vague, too broad, and lets DMV employees arbitrarily decide how a driver's license applicant should look" in their license photo.

"Chase is entitled to be himself and to express his gender nonconformity without interference from the South Carolina DMV," TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman said in a statement. "It is not the role of the DMV or any government agency or employee to decide how men and women should look. Chase should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination."

According to TLDEF, Chase went to the DMV office in Anderson, South Carolina, on March 3 to get his first driver's license, but was told he could not wear a "disguise" and that he needed to "look male" in his license photo.

"My clothing and makeup reflect who I am. 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 I’m somehow not good enough," Chase said in a TLDEF press release.

The DMV refused to allow Chase to wear makeup because of a policy that prohibits individuals to take photos if they purposefully alter his or her appearance, the Post & Courier reported.

On June 9, Chase sent a written appeal to the South Carolina DMV, asking that he be allowed to retake his license photo with makeup.

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