Tennesseans and Virginians Face The Same Name-Change Road Blocks At DMV Offices
A Tennessee same-sex couples was denied the right of name change even after getting legally married elsewhere. But TN isn’t alone in its denial, VA has similar discriminatory language written into its state code.
“But while the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages for the purposes of ID, Tennessee does not,” The Tennessean reports. “Its legislators and voters strongly oppose same-sex marriage, banning it first in state statute and then, by a majority vote, in the state constitution.”
Same-sex couples who seek marriage outside their states of residency to receive a marriage certificate are being told “no” when seeking a legal name change. Their home state’s lack of recognition of same-sex marriage causes the divide.
“When gay husbands and wives show up at Tennessee driver’s license bureaus with marriage certificates and Social Security cards in their married names, they’re turned away — with a quote from the state constitution and an admonition to come back with a court order,” The Tennessean continued.
Since the Supreme Court overturned most of the provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June, it is proving easier for same-sex couples to change their names for federal IDs and credit cards than their driver’s license.
Steven Mulroy, a University of Memphis law professor specializing in civil liberties said there are a couple of legal arguments which can be made.
“One is that the Tennessee ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause — all Americans must be treated the same,” The Tennessean reports on the issue. “The other is that it violates the constitution’s full faith and credit clause, which says states must respect the judgment of other states.”
Some are being forced to go through the court to file legal name changes which comes with paperwork, court fees and sometimes a waiting period.
Jeremy May of Oak Ridge, Tenn. “was rejected from the license bureau in Clinton, Tenn., when he took his Washington, D.C., marriage certificate,” The Tennessean reports. “Within the week, he’d printed out paperwork for a legal name change and filed it at the Anderson County courthouse for $179.50.”
May was able to obtain a temporary license upon taking the court order back to the license bureau.
Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project, Chris Sanders, is among those helping to gather couples for a lawsuit against the state.
““This is just one more reminder that our marriages are not equal here,” Sanders told The Tennessean. “The system we have is untenable because couples are changing all kinds of other federal documents and being given inconsistent guidance in Tennessee.
”The short-term fix for couples to go to court to get a name change. And the longer-term fix is for us to go to court and challenge the marriage amendment, which is what we’re doing.”
Virginia’s same-sex couples have faced similar circumstances.
The passing of Virginia’s 2006 Marriage Amendment, also known as the Anti-Marriage Amendment, prevents the recognition of same-sex partnerships within the state.
“Couples wishing to change their name also must receive a court order to present to the DMV,” Equality Virginia (EV) explains on their site.
Equality Virginia told the story of Va. residents Mandy and Kristyn who had a civil union in September 2012.
“When Kristyn went to the Social Security Administration office in Virginia to begin the name change process, she had no issue,” the EV reports. “It wasn’t until she stepped into a Henrico County DMV that she faced a problem.”
“She scanned our marriage license and asked me if this was a same-sex marriage and I said yes. She then said that she couldn’t process my name change because Virginia doesn’t legally recognize same-sex marriages,” Kristyn told EV. “I told her that nowhere on the DMV website did it specify or explicitly say that the marriage license would only be accepted if it were for a straight couple.”
Kristyn is among the many who hear from their local DMV’s the only way to go about getting a new license is going through the court for a legal name change.
“I decided to call the DMV’s customer service number to clarify if they do or do not grant name changes for same-sex couples through marriage and was told that there is no reason why any DMV would not accept a same-sex name change provided that proper documentation is provided,” Kristyn said.
The DMV provided Equality Virginia with the following response:
“As far as DMV’s Policy regarding your inquiry, since Virginia does not legally recognize same-sex marriage, a same sex couple would need to provide an original or certified copy of the court order granting the name change in order for DMV to process a name change on a driver’s license.
Privacy laws do not allow us to discuss individual customer records; however, I can tell you that DMV thoroughly trains employees on all policies in order to ensure consistency. Should an inconsistency occur, we address it.
As far as the customer researching the documents she needed on our website, we are happy this customer brought this issue to our attention. We inform the public of our credentialing requirements through our website. We are updating our website to reflect our policy more clearly.”
Since this issue arose last year the DMV has made several changes to their website. For a name change the DMV explains though a marriage certificate is a document which serves as proof of a name change but within the parentheses you will find, “same-sex marriage or civil union documents are not accepted.”
It is issues such as these which exhibit the hurdles same-sex couples face all while being reminded their marriages continue to be unequal.
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