Newlywed Lesbian Denied Name Change

Oftentimes, when two couples get married, one changes their last name to reflect their marriage. But when Traci Turpin from Knoxville married her partner in Washington, D.C., and tried to change her name to reflect her legal marriage, she didn’t predict the discrimination she was about to face.

The couple returned to Tennessee after their marriage in D.C. Turpin successfully had her last name legally changed to that of her partner at Tennessee’s Social Security office. Then, she went to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to change the name on her license. But they refused to honor her name change.

They initially gave her a new license, but she was stopped before leaving and told to return the license. When she wouldn’t return the license, the DMV called highway patrolmen. Defeated, she returned the license and received a new license with her old last name.

In Tennessee, the State Department of Safety requires two documents for a name change: a current license and a certified document showing reason for a name change. Turpin used her marriage license to show the reason for her name change. But since Tennessee doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, the document was considered invalid.

It’s appalling that Turpin wasn’t able to receive the proper identification reflecting her name change. While Turpin’s marriage is not legally recognized in Tennessee, Turpin’s marriage license document should count as a certified document showing reason for a name change. Her partnership and marriage in D.C. (regardless of its lack of recognition in Tennessee) shows adequate reason for a name change.

The DMV should have respected her partnership and honored her name change. Why shouldn’t someone be able to change their last name to reflect their partnership whenever they want? Does a relationship need to be recognized as a marriage before a name change is acceptable? It seems ridiculous that lack of recognition of gay marriage in Tennessee leads to people like Turpin being unable to get a simple name change.

Photo credit: dyobmit