First Amendment

Suit claims male teen has constitutional right to wear makeup in driver's license photo


A male teen who wears makeup on a regular basis claims in a lawsuit that the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles violated his constitutional rights by requiring him to remove his cosmetics for a driver’s license photo.

Teresa Culpepper of Anderson, South Carolina, filed the suit (PDF) Tuesday on behalf of her 16-year-old son, Chase Culpepper, report CNN, the Associated Press and the Anderson Independent Mail.

According to the suit, Chase Culpepper is male but is gender nonconforming. He wears makeup and clothing that is androgynous or typically worn by women. The suit says DMV employees asked the teen to take off his makeup for the photo, apparently relying on a policy that bars driver’s license applicants from altering their appearance to misrepresent their identity.

Chase Culpepper got his driver’s license after removing his makeup. A later letter asked the DMV to allow him to retake his photo with makeup, but there was no response, the suit says. The suit claims the DMV violated Chase Culpepper’s right to freedom of expression and free speech “and compelled him to convey defendants’ ideological message that men and women should dress and appear in accordance with their sex stereotypes.”

The suit also asserts that the DMV violated the right to equal protection by relying on sex stereotypes in carrying out its photo policy, and violated Culpepper’s liberty interest in choosing his personal appearance in violation of due process rights. The suit also claims the DMV photo policy is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.

The Culpepper family is represented by the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, which is assisted pro bono by Fulbright & Jaworski and Wyche, according to a press release.

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