Why Marriage Equality Matters, Example #573,489

Here’s yet another example of why marriage equality in every state matters. A woman who moved from California to Texas is being denied a driver’s license because she’s in a same-sex marriage and changed her name to match her wife’s. The state says they won’t issue a license without a court order.

After Connie Wilson married her partner of nine years in California last year, she took her wife’s last name, Wilson, which now appears on both her California driver’s license and her Social Security card, in addition to all of the couple’s financial and medical records.

This summer, the couple relocated to the Houston area with their three children for work. With her California driver’s license nearing expiration, Wilson took her documents to a DPS office in Katy last week to obtain a Texas driver’s license. When a DPS employee noticed that Wilson’s name didn’t match her birth certificate, she produced the couple’s California marriage license identifying her spouse as Aimee Wilson…

“She immediately told me, ‘You can’t use this to get your license. This doesn’t validate your last name. Do you have anything else?’” Wilson said. “She told me I would never get a license with my current name, that the name doesn’t belong to me.”

Texas has both a state statute and a constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. However, Wilson contends she isn’t asking DPS to recognize her marriage, but rather trying to obtain an accurate driver’s license reflecting her legal name according to the state of California and the U.S. government.

“I’ve been deprived the freedom to drive a vehicle once my current California driver’s license expires,” Wilson said. “I’m further being deprived the freedom to use air travel, make purchases that require a valid photo identification, seek medical attention for myself or my children, as well as other situations that would require proving who I am legally as an individual.”

And this was not one clerk making a mistake, it’s the official position of the state of Texas:

In response to inquiries from the Observer, DPS confirmed that people moving to Texas from other states can’t obtain driver’s licenses listing their married names using same-sex marriage licenses.

“To receive a Texas Driver License or Identification Card reflecting a name change from a same-sex marriage, a court order is required,” a DPS spokesman said in a statement.

Among other things, Wilson said the pending expiration of her California license has threatened her family’s ability to close on a house in Texas. It could also jeopardize the couple’s ability to obtain disability benefits for one of their children, who has both autism and Down syndrome.

“I still can’t believe I’m being met with all the roadblocks that I am,” Wilson said. “For the first time in my life, I in a minuscule way know what it feels like for a person who is undocumented, how terrifying it must be to function in day-to-day life. It terrifies me—I’m a U.S. citizen—the fact that I can’t get something that I’ve had all my life, that I assume is my right. My right was taken away.”

True marriage equality, nationwide and federally mandated, can’t come soon enough.

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  • cptdoom

    IANAL, and I understand that Texas has the right, under the Constitution, to refuse to recognize the legality of this marriage (just as they could refuse to recognize the marriage of close relatives, were that against Texas law). However it seems to me that the name change part of the legal contract should fall under the “full faith and credit” requirement that states respect other states’ judgments? The state of California has legally allowed this woman to change her name – the cause of that name change should be irrelevant and Texas should have to honor the name change, if not the marriage.

  • I bet I could get a Texas drivers license if I changed my name to Seymour Butts. No one would question it because I’m a straight white male. She legally changed her name. The reason why did shouldn’t be relevant.

  • iangould

    This is a perfect example of why at a minimum I expect the Supreme Court to rule that states must recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

  • erichoug

    You know, I like living in Texas. I like living in Houston. Neither place is the religious or cultural backwater that most people envision.

    But, there certainly times that I am embarrassed by my state. And this is one.

  • sugarfrosted

    Is Texas just trying to make sure gay marriage gets legalized? because I can’t really see the supreme court or any federal court going along with this.

  • addiepray

    Does Texas require photo ID to vote?

  • whheydt

    Re: addiepray @ #6…

    I believe so and there have been other reports of issues over married women who changed their names having trouble satisfying the TX requirements, as well as issues around the details of the form of names (use of middle initials, for instance).

  • D. C. Sessions

    Among other things, Wilson said the pending expiration of her California license has threatened her family’s ability to close on a house in Texas. It could also jeopardize the couple’s ability to obtain disability benefits for one of their children, who has both autism and Down syndrome.

    Sounds like the law in Texasis working as intended.

    Does Texas require photo ID to vote?

    Yup. And keeping people like this from voting is why.

  • eric

    Agree with @1; seems to me that any reasonable court is going to quickly decide that (1) she changed her last name in CA using a CA-legal method, and therefore (2) other states must honor the name change.

    Key to that argument being “any reasonable court,” I suppose…

  • dukeofomnium

    #2: from the article, she did not actually go to court to change her name. Instead, she adopted her wife’s name without the court process, which is legal in California (and probably most if not all other states).

    Texas’ position is seemingly that her name was not legally changed: Since the marriage was never valid under Texas law, the name never legally changed.

    As Mr. Brayton says, this is why marriage equality can’t come soon enough.

  • dukeofomnium:

    The point is, she changed her name using the legal process in California. Full faith and credit should apply and Texas should accept the new name.

  • corwyn

    Full faith and credit should also apply to the marriage. In fact, that was the example I always heard from people explaining ‘full faith and credit’ (though not the specific example of same sex marriages) when I was young. This is why people go to Nevada to get a divorce.

  • corwyn

    … And really that is what everybody wants (once their personal biases are ignored). No one would want *their own* marriage to not be recognized when the move between states. That would be total chaos. In fact, if states allowing same sex marriage wanted to use the ‘nuclear’ option on the question, refusing to recognize ANY marriage from Texas, would clear up the issue (in some direction) in a hurry.

  • Chiroptera

    I thought that it was legal in most (if not all) jursidictions in the US for people to change their names and use the new names without going through the formal legal process.

    Am I wrong?

    Or is Texas an except to this?

    Or is Texas’ policy on this issue different than how the state handles all the other cases of name changes?

    All of the above?

  • steve84

    Completely arbitrary BS. A court sanctioned name change is ok, but a name change based on a marriage license isn’t. That only makes sense in lalaland

  • Now, look, only two things come from Texas; steers and queers.


    From the evidence provided to this court, they satisfy one of the requirements.


    I find for the plaintiffs. Case closed.


    Now, let us stand for the traditional singing of the Texas state anthem, Texas, Our Texas

    Yee-haw! Woop woop! Woop! Yee-haw!

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    I ran into a similar issue when I changed my name to my wife’s, although not to the same extent. The DL, SS, passport (all official documents) were changed with no issue at all (this was in AZ, in ’96). Only the electric company, of all places, tried to tell us we had to go do an official name change through the courts. They quickly caved when I produced all the other documents, but it was mildly entertaining.

    I hope someone asks the officials in TX if a man changes his name to match his wife’s, they would honor that without any argument. If they say yes, then the couple might have grounds for a gender discrimination suit. 🙂

  • LightningRose

    Texas – can’t live with it, can’t give it back to Mexico.

  • abb3w

    This sort of overreaching dickery seems one of the fastest ways to provoke federal courts to strike down the Texas gay marriage ban.

  • dingojack

    Hey Ed – remind me of example #573,488, again?!?


  • smrnda

    This just shows you how petty and small-minded anti-gay bigots are, and why nothing but full marriage equality will solve anything. There is some little bigot who will find a way to deny people in same-sex unions benefits over the most trivial excuses, no matter how legally you really are, and with enough bigots they can really throw a wrench in the works.

  • dingojack

    I did a search for reason #573,488 — nothing at all, anywhere on FtB.

    And everyone knows that nothing counters ridiculous hyperbole like …. um … even more ridiculous hyperbole.

    Do I detect more than a whiff of hyperbolic hypocrisy?!?


  • Childermass

    I’m with cptdoom@1, even if we granted TX the right to refuse to accept same-sex marriages as valid in its borders, Texas is still full of it here. Clearly Texas allows people to change their names, so the Full Faith and Credit clause comes into play. She changed her name in another state. The reason why she changed her name is utterly irrelevant as I am sure the state never asks anyone else why they changed their name and instead just recognizes it.

    This sort of crap is one reason why they are doing so badly in the courts. And it can only help push public opinion. Indeed, the sheer vindictiveness of bigots being put on display might be number one thing convincing people that they are indeed bigots.

  • eric

    Only the electric company, of all places, tried to tell us we had to go do an official name change through the courts.

    I have a somewhat comparable story, though not about a name change. When I got divorced, the one and only place that insisted I produce an official copy of the divorce agreement before they would change anything was…the cable company.