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Inequality Tale: A Trip to the New York State Marriage Bureau

Darcy_kate

Darcy Tucker and Kate Pisano, a couple of nine years who were married in California in 2008, pay a visit to the New York State marriage bureau in an attempt to change the last name on their marriage certificate.

Watch what happens, AFTER THE JUMP...

(via joe)

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  1. Aside from the fact that the clerks have no clue as to what the laws are, I don't really see a situation of inequality here: if a straight couple got married in CA and didn't change their names there, and then wanted to change their names in NY, they'd have to do it through a judge, not the marriage registry.

    I don't think any state just hands out new marriage licenses with new names on them at people's request. Could you collect one from each state?

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Aug 31, 2009 10:52:19 AM


  2. It's clear that the people who work here don't know the laws, or are really confused by them. But isn't this a job for the Social Security office (most likely the one in the county they were married in)?

    Posted by: Mike E. Perez | Aug 31, 2009 11:08:33 AM


  3. A girl in the office is getting married on Wednesday. That's $50 and instant legal residency (her boyfriend, bless him, has dual Australian and American citizenship). That means she'll become a citizen too (not just a green card).

    They're both lovely people. I'm delighted for her and angry for me (I've lived here with my American partner for 13 years since graduating from an Ivy League). It's cost me tens of thousands of dollars and years of uncertainty and heartache to do what she did for $50.

    I'm enraged actually. I had to go to the men's room and chill for a minute. I'm fine now.

    Posted by: elcamino | Aug 31, 2009 11:24:22 AM


  4. Yes, immigration inequality is one of the most frustrating problems, and you can't even work for it if it affects you, because you'll out yourself as a binational couple.

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Aug 31, 2009 11:44:54 AM


  5. @kevinvt: Huh? If you're trying to gain legal rights in any way you're outing yourself as a binational couple. Why is that (implicitly) a bad thing?

    Posted by: Dave | Aug 31, 2009 1:08:41 PM


  6. Dave, it's not necessarily "bad" to be outed as a same-sex binational couple but it is risky, as the family can be forcibly split through deportation.
    Opposite-sex couples in the United States and same-sex couples in countries with equal rights (like Canada) do not face the same risk.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 31, 2009 1:42:54 PM


  7. Andy, I love your site and check it out throught each day. What I don't love is the new pop up ads you have installed at the top of every page. They are extremely frustrating and make a visit to your website much less enjoyable. I hope you'll consider removing them. They have already decreased my visits and I'm sure I can't be the only one that despises them.
    Cheers,
    David

    Posted by: David | Aug 31, 2009 1:51:30 PM


  8. What they are trying to do is ridiculous, or at least misdirected. If you are married in one state, you don't go and get a new license in every other state, gay or straight. And while it is of course less likely that a straight couple will be questioned when they say they are married, it is because of public knowledge (or lack thereof) and assumption, not because of lack of state recognition, that they may be required to carry around proof of their marriage in situations that might cause question. Perhaps my husband and I have been lucky, but when he was in the hospital recently, I simply told them I was his husband, and they let me right in. Had they not, I would have gone home and brought back our marriage license. Inconvenient? Of course. But that will only change with time. In the meantime, they could not have denied me access once presented with proof. If they tried to, THEN I would have raised a ruckus.

    The name change is a separate issue, and if these women changed their name when they got married (using the same procedure that a straight couple would), and their new names are shown on their CA marriage license, then what they need to do is go through the proper channels to have their names legally changed on their other identifying documents, i.e. their Social Security cards and their driver's licenses. Going to the marriage bureau to get a new license is not the way to do that.

    Here's what we did: My husband and I were married in Massachusetts during the short "window" before Mitt Rotten-ney banned out-of-staters from taking advantage of the state's affirmation of equality. When we returned to New York with our marriage license showing that we had changed our names, I called then-governor Eliot Spitzer's office, because he had issued a statement that New York "should recognize" marriages done legally outside of NY. I asked them where I "register" my marriage, and was told there is no such registry, you simply go about your married life, THE SAME AS A STRAIGHT MARRIED COUPLE, unless anyone in particular questioned our status. To me, that sounded like a GREAT thing - the same as any straight married couple, get it? No special registry.

    So the real issue we had to deal with was the fact that we hyphenated our names legally on our marriage license, and now our ID was incorrect.

    I went right to my Social Security office with my marriage license, and asked for a new SS card with my new name on it. It took a while for the woman at the window to figure out what to do - she confided in me that I was her "first," and she wasn't sure if she was allowed to do a name change for a same-sex couple, but her supervisor agreed she had no choice but to change my name on my card (and of course attached to my SS number), based on me showing her my legal marriage license with my new legal name on it, and she was happy to be able to do it. (I guess I made an impression, because I have been back to the SS office twice for issues having to do with the son we adopted, and by chance ended up at her window, and she remembered my (new) name!).

    I then took my new SS card and went to the Department of Motor Vehicles, where I asked them to change the name on my driver's license. I checked the box on the form stating that the reason for the change was "marriage," and it threw them at first because NY didn't legally perform same sex marriages. But I showed them my marriage license AND my new SS card, and calmly insisted that whether they wanted to recognize my marriage or not, the name on my DL was now legally incorrect and HAD to be changed. It took a while to get someone on the phone from Albany to agree that yes, my name could/should be changed. Done deal. And by the way, once I had done this, my husband had a much easier time about a week later doing exactly the same things.

    There are two ways for the average citizen to legally change their name as I understand it, whether you are gay or straight. One is by getting married, and going through the process above. The other is to petition for a name change, publish your intention in a newspaper, and then swear in front of a judge that you are not changing your name in an attempt to commit fraud or get out of legal responsibilities. I am not sure if a lawyer is necessary, and I don't know what the court fee is for this, but I think it takes more time than money. And yes, there is a chance a judge can turn you down, but that is simply because a judge has the right to individually (arbitrarily?) rule for or against ANY petition. But as long as the petition is on the up-and-up, and the judge doesn't happen to be a homophobe (appeal, anyone?), it's not that big a deal, and people do it all the time.

    MY TIP TO YOU: It's all about doing it properly, in the right order, and by the way, BEING NICE ABOUT IT. Don't kiss ass, just give the person behind the window the opportunity to feel GOOD about doing the right thing. And know the facts before you open your mouth.

    I know we're lucky because we live in NY, and things are likely smoother here than in most other places. But to tell you the truth, I myself don't like to do things for people who get in my face and make loud, nasty demands. It's a matter of common courtesy, really.

    Don't let the video and story above get anyone's panties in a bunch, because it's disingenuous. Oh, and by the way, on one slide they spelled "eager" wrong!

    Posted by: Rich | Sep 1, 2009 9:21:08 AM


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