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SC Equality & ACLU of SC File Suit to Require SC DMV to Honor Name Changes Chosen by Gays and Lesbians after Marriage

October 30, 2014

Greenville, SC  On Friday, October 31, 2014, ACLU of South Carolina and SC Equality filed a suit in the US District Court, Greenville Division on behalf of three Plaintiffs who cannot obtain a South Carolina driver's license in his or her chosen name.  Each plaintiff was married in another state and chose to change his or her surname.
 
When Judy Haas presented her Massachusetts marriage license as evidence of her name change, the clerk at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SC DMV) office in Fountain Inn refused to correct her license to reflect her new name.  The Social Security Administration had issued a new Social Security card in her new name.  A clerk at the West Ashley SC DMV in Charleston issued a driver's license to Brandon Velez after he presented his New York marriage license as evidence of his name change.  Later the same day, an agent of the SC DVM demanded that he return to the office or have his license revoked.  He returned and was issued a license in his old name.  Damari Indart was married in Connecticut in 2009.  She chose to change her surname.  Her Social Security card was changed to reflect her new name.  Her Florida driver's license was corrected to record her name change.  In 2013, after she moved to SC, Indart applied for a SC driver's license.  She went to offices in Greenville, Fountain Inn and Greenwood.  Each of those SC DMV offices refused to issue a license in her married name.  And the SC DMV refused to issue a license in her prior name because her Social Security records did not match the prior name.  SC DMV refuses to recognize these name changes because each of these individuals is married to a person of the same sex.   A marriage license or certificate from Massachusetts, New York or Connecticut or any other state is accepted as documentation of a name change if the person requesting the new name presents documentation of a marriage to someone of the opposite sex.
 
Victoria Middleton, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina, explained, "The Department of Motor Vehicles should not be in the business of deciding whether or not a marriage is valid.  It may demand proper documentation of a name change in order to guard against fraud.  It is unconstitutional, however, to treat citizens differently who present exactly the same documentation. There is no rational basis to assume that a person married to someone of the same sex is more likely to change his or her name fraudulently than someone married to a person of a different sex."
 
Jeff Ayers, Chair of the Board of Directors of South Carolina Equality, added, "Once again, SC is treating its gay and lesbian citizens unfairly.  All South Carolinians should have their choice of name honored.  And now the Fourth Circuit ruling in the Bostic case removes any excuse that the DMV may have.  Gay and lesbian families should be able to choose their family names just like anyone else. And not being able to get a license in your name is an incredible hassle.  Voting, traveling, applying for work, enrolling in higher education are all made difficult if you do not have a photo ID in your name."
 
A copy of the complaint can be found here
 
The ACLU of South Carolina is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights for all South Carolinians. Foremost among these rights are freedom of speech and religion, the right to equal treatment under law, and the right to privacy.
Contact Victoria Middleton at vmiddleton@aclusouthcarolina.org or visit www.aclusouthcarolina.org.
 
South Carolina Equality is a non-profit organization with the mission to secure equal civil and human rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender South Carolinians and their families and has a vision of a South Carolina where everyone is equal. Contact Jeff Ayers at jeffayers@scequality.org or visit www.scequality.org.