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South Carolina

Transgender rights group sues S.C. over teen’s driver’s license photo

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — An organization that supports transgender rights has filed a lawsuit against the state of South Carolina after it refused to issue a driver’s license to a 16-year-old gender non-conforming teen unless he took off his makeup.

Chase Culpepper

Chase Culpepper

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) filed the lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday on behalf of Chase Culpepper, alleging the Department of Motor Vehicles violated the teen’s rights.

Earlier this year, the DMV wouldn’t allow Culpepper wear his makeup for the photo because of a policy that bans license pictures when someone is purposefully altering his appearance.

Culpepper told reporters Tuesday that being ordered by officials to remove what they called a disguise was humiliating.

Culpepper says he is gender non-conforming and regularly wears makeup and androgynous or girls’ clothing.

On June 9, the TLDEF sent a letter to the South Carolina DMV asking that Chase be allowed to retake his license photo while dressed as he normally does, with makeup, but the department never responded to the letter.

Beth Parks, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said previously that the agency has had a policy on taking driver license photos since 2009 that states “at no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposely altering his or her appearance so that it the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.”

The TLDEF says that rule is unconstitutional because it is too vague and lets DMV employees arbitrarily decide how someone should look.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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