Settlement reached for Upstate team told to remove makeup at DMV

Settlement reached for Upstate team told to remove makeup at DMV

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/WIS) - An Upstate teenager suing the state Department of Motor Vehicles now has a deal and an apology.

Chase Culpepper, who identifies herself as female, sued after being told that wearing makeup wouldn't be allowed while having a driver's license picture taken.

Culpepper's settlement with the DMV includes a formal apology for telling her to "look male" and Culpepper can now take her driver's license photo with makeup, as she originally wanted to.

On Wednesday, Culpepper along with her attorney, weighed in on how a fight over something as simple as makeup has laid the groundwork for a fight for transgender equality in South Carolina.

Back in September, the Upstate transgender teen filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Motor Vehicles, after being forced to remove makeup for her driver's license photo.

"What happened to me was wrong," she said. "It was hurtful to be singled out for being transgender."

Culpepper says she did what she felt was right in filing the suit against the DMV.

"You should stand up for your rights, and that's what I did," Culpepper says. "Hopefully this will inspire other transgender and gender non-conforming to stand up for their rights as well and feel proud of themselves."

The settlement with the DMV doesn't involve money or damages but does lay out four requirements for the state agency.

Chase gets an official apology and gets to take her driver's license photo with makeup. It also changes DMV policy, letting driver's license applicants take pictures how they want. Finally, the suit requires training for DMV employees on how to treat transgender individuals.

"The policy changes from the settlement agreement will be implemented in 14 days from when the judge signed our order which was Monday," Ethan Rice of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund said.

This is the second major lawsuit over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the Palmetto State in the past year.

An overturned decision on same-sex marriage bans in federal court in November let same sex couples in South Carolina apply for marriage licenses.

Culpepper's attorney, Marshall Winn, says more equality lawsuits are the result of the law catching up with changing attitudes toward the LGBT community.

"We're all people," Winn said. "We're all deserving of rights."

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