Transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in South Carolina will now be allowed to take license photos that reflect their everyday appearance, following a settlement announced this morning in a lawsuit filed by transgender teen Chase Culpepper.
The seventeen year old filed the federal lawsuit last September, accusing the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles of sex discrimination and violating her free speech. In the spring of 2014, she arrived at the DMV office in Anderson, S.C. wearing mascara and eye shadow, ready to take her driver’s license photo. She says department officials promptly told her she had to remove the cosmetics before taking the photo because they were a “disguise.” Culpepper, who now identifies as a transgender young woman but used male pronouns at the time, says she often wore makeup and women’s clothing.
Under the terms of the settlement, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles agreed to change its policy to allow people seeking drivers’ licenses to be photographed as they regularly present themselves, even if their appearance does not match the officials’ expectations of how the applicant should look. The department also promised to send Culpepper a written apology and train its employees in how to treat transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals in professional settings. The changes to policy are scheduled to go into effect in May.