Wednesday, April 22, 2015

South Carolina Transteen Dissed By DMV Reaches Settlement

Chase Culpepper
TransGriot Note:  At the time Chase was discriminated against and I wrote about it last September, Chase identified as gender nonconforming.  Now she identifies as trans.

South Carolina trans teen Chase Culpepper took and passed her driving test at a DMV location in Anderson, SC in March 2014.

Instead of allowing the now 17 year old trans feminine teen to take her picture in the makeup she wore on a regular basis, she was told by the DMV employee to 'look male' and remove her makeup because of an alleged policy that bans license photos when someone is purposefully altering his or her appearance and refused to take her photo and provide her the license she'd earned until she did so.

After several attempts, Culpepper's makeup was removed to the DMV employees satisfaction in a process that was called degrading and humiliating.

In September 2014 Culpepper filed a federal lawsuit with the help of the New York based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (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 sought a ruling under the U.S. and South Carolina Constitutions that the DMV’s former 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. 

Under the terms of the settlement announced today, the South Carolina DMV will (1) change its photo policy to allow license applicants to be photographed the way they appear regularly, even when their hair, makeup or clothing doesn’t match the DMV’s expectations of how a man or a woman should look; (2) implement training for DMV employees that addresses the new policy and the professional treatment of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals; (3) allow Chase to return to the DMV to get her license photograph taken wearing makeup; and (4) apologize to Chase for how she was treated at the DMV.

“I am thrilled with the outcome of my lawsuit,” said Culpepper. “My clothing and makeup reflect who I am. From day one, all I wanted was to get a driver’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 wasn’t good enough. With this settlement, the DMV can no longer force transgender people to look like someone they’re not. I’m so glad that I stood up for what’s right and helped make positive change for transgender and gender nonconforming people.”

“This settlement agreement sends a strong message about equal rights,” said TLDEF Staff Attorney Ethan Rice. “Transgender and gender nonconforming people are entitled to be themselves without interference from the DMV. It is not the role of the DMV or its employees to decide how men and women should look. People should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination. The policy changes and training that the DMV will implement in response to Chase’s lawsuit will help all transgender and gender nonconforming South Carolina residents in the future.”

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