Lawsuit to be filed on behalf of SC teen forced to remove makeup by DMV

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Chase Culpepper's driver's license photo. (File: FOX Carolina

Columbia, SC (WHNS) — The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund announced on Monday that they plan to file a lawsuit on behalf of an Anderson teen who was forced to remove makeup when getting a driver’s license picture.

The group said they will hold a press conference on Tuesday on the South Steps of the South Carolina State House in Columbia to announce the filing.

The suit, which is brought by Teresa Culpepper, mother of 16-year-old Chase Culpepper, will ask “the court to rule that denying Chase the freedom to wear his everyday makeup in his license photo constitutes sex discrimination and violates his right to free speech and expression under the United States Constitution,” according to a press release from TLDEF.

“It also 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, without regard for the rights of the people they are supposed to serve,” the release stated.

In June, Chase Culpepper said he was told he needed to look more like a boy before he could receive his new license at the DMV.

He said he was only dressed the way he does every day to school and to his job at McDonald’s. He doesn’t think he violated any rules and now he wants the DMV to let him re-take his license picture, wearing makeup.

Chase Culpepper got his license in March but felt like he had been singled out and mistreated at the DMV for dressing differently.

He went to the TLDEF, and on June 9 the group contacted the DMV explaining that Chase Culpepper’s rights had been violated.

According to the South Carolina DMV’s photo policy, which was updated in 2009:

“At no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposefully altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.”

Chase Culpepper told FOX Carolina in June he thought people should be able to walk into the DMV and take a picture no matter what he or she is wearing.

“This is how I am every day. And if a police officer wanted to recognize how I am, then, he would want to see who I am in my picture as well,” Chase Culpepper said.

By Joseph Pereira

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