ANDERSON, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles says a gender non-conforming teen who dresses as a girl may not have his driver’s license photo retaken wearing makeup.
The New York-based Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund wrote the DMV last week requesting that 16-year-old Chase Culpepper be allowed to have a new photo dressed as he normally does.
The organization said the youth regularly wears makeup and androgynous or girls’ clothing.
In March, Culpepper was told at the DMV office in Anderson he could not have his photo taken with women’s makeup and the defense fund says that violates his free speech rights.
“Chase’s freedom to express his gender should not be restricted by DMV staff,” Michel Silverman, the executive director of the defense fund wrote to the department. “He is entitled to be who he is and express that without interference from government actors.”
Beth Parks, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said the agency has received the letter and will be responding that a new photo will not be permitted.
She said that, since 2009, the department has had a policy on taking driver license photos.
Article continues belowThe policy says that “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.”
She said that law enforcement agencies rely on drivers’ license photos to identify people.
“If it’s Thomas Jones on the license and yet it looks like a female, that is very confusing for them,” she said. “They want to know what the identity is.”
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