I never figured that I would change my name once I got married, mostly because for a while there, I didn’t think any guy would find me attractive enough to marry, and then once I figured out the gay thing, because you know, gay people DON’T DO THAT (get married, that is).
Actually, from a certain standpoint, I do wish marriage equality wasn’t the first and foremost issue of the “gay agenda”- a strong push, for example, to explicitly list “sexual orientation” in a federal non-discrimination act might be more useful on a day-to-day level in the lives of the gay unemployed than the right to marry (not to mention ending DADT). Not that the right to marry isn’t important, and that denying gay couples the right to marry isn’t a form of discrimination, I just kinda feel like maybe we should make ALL gay people, regardless of their partnership status, protected under FEDERAL law first, before we get to the nitty-gritty.
Which seems sorta funny coming from me, because I did up and get married (let’s, for the sake of convenience, assume my legal Canadian wedding is the same thing as your legal American wedding, just for the moment), and I have some pretty strong thoughts on the whole topic.
Anyways- what I was originally intending to talk about, before I took that detour into Gay Studies 101, was changing my surname. Like I said, I didn’t figure myself for a surname changer, probably because my own mother didn’t (and if ANYONE had a reason to change her name, it’s my mother, as her maiden name is complicatedly Polish, and I am pretty sure I’m not even pronouncing it correctly), and honestly, a lot of the professional women friends my parents had while I was growing up didn’t either. I thought I’d cemented myself into a non-name changer when I went to a hoity-toity east coast women’s college, and figured out I was gay, and noticed that once I became a “professional,” none of my peers did either.
And then I met and fell in love with and married J. Life sometimes throws you some personal curveballs, you know what I mean? Even though we’ve always lived in culturally progressive areas of the country, I still fret about what happens if one of us has to go to the hospital, and we don’t have the same last name (two years ago, when J was hit by a car, I was allowed into the ER without any hassle, but my heart was beating out of my chest when I had to tell the nurse I was J’s “girlfriend”). Or if, GOD FORBID, something way more terrible happens to one of us, and we have to differ important decisions to “real” family members (note, both of our families are super supportive of our relationship, and I doubt we would have significant differences about how to handle end-of-life issues, but can you imagine having to ask your mother-in-law if you can see your partner on her deathbed? [WHOA. That went more morbid than I wanted it to]).
So we decided that having the same last name was important to us, and if that confused people into thinking we were sisters, well, that was no skin off our noses. And then we got pregnant, and it became even more important to me that I have the same last name as our child. We kicked around the idea of combining our names (my Twitter handle, @NASeason, is a combination of our two last names), changing our last name altogether, hyphenating (dear GOD, what a mouthful), and all other name-changing variations, but nothing stuck. We also kept circling around the fact that J is one of two girls, marking the end of the line for her last name if we picked a completely new one, and that my last name lives on in my brother and his new son. So, like in all good marriages, we reached a compromise. I would take J’s last name, and she would agree to circumcise our son (should we have one. NO, we still don’t know the sex of this fetus).
Phew. Now that that’s settled, the rest should be a piece of cake, right? HA. So, I keep saying that J and I are married, and from a legal standpoint, that’s true. In Canada. I have no idea if hetero American couples who get married in Canada have their marriages automatically recognized by the US government, or if they need to repeat with an American ceremony, but my guess is no. Since the US does not recognize my legal Canadian wedding, J and are doing the “next best thing” (which, FYI, is the farthest thing from “next best,” it’s a bunch of total bullshit designed to appease angry gay people) which is to get domestic partnershipped. Both the state of Washington and California have domestic partnership statues on the books, but of course, our Washingtonian partnership does not transfer to California, so we had to repeat the process once we moved here.
AND FOR THE RECORD: if you are 90 years old, and you form a domestic partnership with your hetero partner, you pay the court a measly $10 for the pleasure of recording this partnership. If you’re registering your (dirty, deviant) gay domestic partnership, you pay $33, the extra $23 for the pleasure of “develop[ing] and support[ing] a training curriculum specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender domestic abuse support service providers who serve that community in regard to domestic violence, and to provide brochures specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender domestic abuse.” While this all sounds nice on the surface, and I’m sure glad these programs exist, I don’t see why gay people, in particular, have to pay to educate others about our super special status. As a society, we should be working to eradicate domestic violence in all its forms, gay or not. I pay taxes, state of California, and I am sure some of those taxes are earmarked for domestic violence prevention programs. Why the double dipping?
So we are now officially domestic partners in the state of California, which means the following, stated in section 297.5 of the California Family Code:
Registered domestic partners shall have the same rights,
protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same
responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law, whether they
derive from statutes, administrative regulations, court rules,
government policies, common law, or any other provisions or sources
of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.
See that part about “same benefits”? Oh my God, what a load of horseshit. I did a minuscule poll of Twitter (n = 2) of persons married in the state of California who then decided to change their surnames to match their spouse’s. Those persons simply strolled into their local DMV with a copy of their marriage license, and requested a new driver’s license showing the new surname. This one piece of identification cascades into all the ones you might want subsequently- passport, social security number, credit cards, etc. Think of all the things that one piece of ID does for you, and now let me tell you what I have to do.
So, you’d think, with my domestic partnership certificate, and the California Family Code explicitly stating that I have the same benefits as hetero spouses, that I too, could walk on into my local DMV and get a new license. Ohhh, HAHAHHAHHAHA, that’s a good one. The website of the state of California indicates that I can TRY that, but that it will not hold any DMV personnel refusing my request responsible for any wrongdoing. Ok, seriously? Who goes to the DMV to TRY something? The last time I went to the DMV with what I had been told was all the correct paperwork and then some, I was still turned away after standing in line for an hour. There is no way in hell I am going to the DMV to try and see if they will change my name for me, and if the person at the window DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT, walk away with the same damn last name as when I walked in.
Ok, fine. So we’ve established that, at least in this little instance, “same benefits” is a load of crap. What, pray tell, DO I have to do to change my last name? GET A COURT ORDER. I will not bore you (further) with the details of what obtaining a court order consists of, but I will tell you that it is at minimum a 6 week process, and I am further required to publish my request for a name change in the NEWSPAPER, for four weeks. Presumably this is so all my ex-girlfriends can hunt me down and register official and vociferous complaints about this proposed name change, so great is their dismay at no longer being my one-and-only (seriously, though, in this day and age of the internets, I am not sure why I have to publish this info in a general circulation newspaper AND pay for the privilege, but there you have it).
If the court does not hear any objections to my name change (DON’T GET ANY IDEAS), then I get to go to court for a judge to sign this name change order, at which point I will THEN go to the DMV and change my license. Christ, I’m exhausted just typing it all out. There are fees associated with all steps of this process, and I am a bit afraid to find out what they are, lest my head pop off my neck in a fit of rage.
So there you have it- my useless domestic partnership certificate, at least six weeks of bureaucratic red tape, a mess of dollars I could use on a million and one other things, and one raging pregnant woman. On second thought, maybe marriage equality IS my biggest priority.
Next installment: despite being domestic partners (and all the attendant “same benefits”) J is required to ADOPT our child upon its birth. I can’t even tackle that one now.