As part of our ongoing communications work for the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), CreagerCole Communications handled all of the public relations around a transgender teen’s fight to get an accurate driver’s license at the South Carolina DMV, drafting numerous press releases and media training all those who spoke publicly about the case.
In March 2014 when she attempted to get her first driver’s license, Chase Culpepper was told by DMV employees that she could not take her photo unless she removed the makeup that she wears on a regular basis. They told her that she needed to “look male” in her license photo and refused to provide her with her driver’s license if she did not remove the makeup she was wearing.
In September 2014, TLDEF filed a federal lawsuit on Chase’s behalf, asking 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.
On April 22, TLDEF announced a settlement in the case, which will allow Chase to get a new license appearing as her true self and ensure that all transgender and gender nonconforming people will be treated fairly at the South Carolina DMV from now on.
“I am thrilled with the outcome of my lawsuit,” said Chase 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.”
CreagerCole helped Chase, her mother Teresa Culpepper, and TLDEF staff share that important message with the nation. Numerous media outlets covered this historic settlement with the South Carolina DMV. CreagerCole coordinated an exclusive with The Los Angeles Times, which broke the story nationally the morning of the settlement announcement. CreagerCole then coordinated a multitude of additional media opportunities for Chase and TLDEF.
Chase and TLDEF’s Executive Director Michael Silverman appeared on MSNBC’s The Rundown with Jose Diaz-Balart, where they shared their views about the positive impact the case will have on all transgender and gender nonconforming people who visit the South Carolina DMV in the future. The Associated Press and Reuters articles on the case appeared in outlets across the country. Additionally, Chase’s story was covered by several local news stations in South Carolina, including WISTV, which ran Chase’s entire press conference.
It’s been extremely rewarding working on the public relations side of this landmark victory for transgender rights. Chase is a true hero!