Waldlaw Blog

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Marital Name Changes

Here is 2nd biggest question I'm being asked about same-sex marriages in California (if you want to see the #1 question, see my last post): Will the government respect a change in surname brought about by a same-sex marriage? Quick background: when folks get married, there is a place on the marriage license to record a change of last name. Typically, this has been used for a wife to take her husband's last name, and no further legal name change procedure has been required. In California, folks registering as domestic partners with the state have been able to change their last names through the registration process since January 1, 2008, thanks to the Name Equality Act of 2007. The problem lies not with California, but with the federal government. Under provisions of the Patriot Act, one can only have one last name and it is the last name registered with the Social Security Administration. So, for example, the California DMV cannot issue a driver's license with a new (marital) last name unless Social Security has changed the name as well. And since the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents federal recognition of a same-sex marriage, we have been unsure whether Social Security would respect name changes brought about through a California same-sex marriage. So I had my office manager call the Social Security Administration. After a long time on hold, listening to muzak and quietly swearing, she reached a human being at the Social Security Administration who listened to her question, then put her back on hold while she did lord-knows-what to try to find an answer. Lo and behold, when the poor gal at the SSA who had the bad luck to answer our call came back to the phone she informed us that starting June 17, the Social Security Administration will accept a marriage license as valid proof of a legal name change for same-sex couples who wed in California, the same way they do for different-sex couples. Having dealt for years with the intransigence of the federal government on all issues relating to recognition of same-sex couples and families, I admit to remaining just a wee bit skeptical. But that's what they told us. So I would ask my lesbian and gay readers: if you get your name changed through your marriage, go on down to the Social Security Administration with your marriage certificate and try to get them to honor the name change, and then let us know what happens!! You will be doing all of us a service....


  • Two questions...
    1) Have you heard from anyone on whether Social Security Admin kept the policy to allow couples to change their name after getting married in CA?
    2) I just got a copy of the "License and Certificate of Marriage" form from Contra Costa County Recorder's office. There is no space on it to record a name change. How would I go about changing my name? According to the Recorder, all I need to do is take a copy of the official Certificate (after the ceremony) to Social Security or DMV. This does not match the info in your blog, can you clarify?

    By Blogger Lori, at 11:21 AM  

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