OH. MY. GOD, Y’all. Hold on, because I have my ranting pants on (note, this most likely means no actual pants, since I am at home, and I don’t HAVE to wear pants when I don’t want to, and certainly not at home), and if foaming at the mouth about gay rights, the LA County Courthouse, and the decimation of my bank account isn’t your cuppa today, I recommend you CLICK AWAY.
Warning: Completed. Proceed at own risk.
I wrote about my decision to change my last name to match J’s previously here, which was before I even attempted to DO any of the actual legal shenanigans involved in changing my name. Now I am back with installment number two, featuring even more frothing spittle and wild gesticulations (seriously, this is how I talk. I get all het up and yell, and then have to apologize to J by saying that I am not yelling AT HER as much as in her general vicinity, and I wave my arms about wildly. This is frowned upon at my SIL’s house, where “gesturing” at the dinner table involves a monetary penalty for the kids. Said kids are old enough to call each other and everyone else at the table out for these sorts of “manners” infractions, which means that last night, I ate my corned beef and cabbage in SILENCE, lest I gesticulate).
Once decided to change my last name, I downloaded every form listed on the Name Change portion of the Los Angeles County Government website, filled them out in black ink, made two (2) copies, and then… well, honestly, I then waited three months, because who the hell wants to go stand in line at the courthouse? No one, that’s who. But eventually I bucked up, put on some maternity jeans, and got to the courthouse at 10am on Tuesday, along with every other LA County asshole with a parking ticket, small claim, or whatever the hell else brings you to the courthouse (paternity suits, judging from an informal poll of my fellow waiters in line).
If you’ve been following along on Twitter, you know this first trip to the courthouse was somewhat frustrating- and I am here to spare you no detail about the length and depth of my frustration. I settle into a line I think is relatively short (like, less than 10 people), but it soon becomes apparent that this line moves more slowly than glaciers, and this is mostly due to the single clerk at the window and the fact that everything must be stamped and filed in triplicate. After waiting on my feet for an hour and suffering through a precipitous drop in blood sugar (seriously, that would have just taken the cake, if I’d FAINTED in the disgusting dirty courthouse), I got to the front of the line and up to the window.
Here, a woman I am quite sure is supremely nice in real life, but is now my sworn mortal enemy, took one look at my paperwork, rifled through it, and told me it was filled out incorrectly and there were missing forms, but that they would SELL me the correct forms over in room 205. What good, exactly, Los Angeles County, is a website if it cannot be arsed to contain all the information needed? I would say it’s an equal waste of county employees’ time to have to tell people they are missing forms, but it took her all of 30 seconds to dismiss me, so I’m really just bitching about MY TIME, since after waiting in line for that hour, I then had to wait in a different line for ANOTHER hour, only to get a stack of papers in another thirty second transaction.
The only highlight of the line waiting was the gentleman in front of me, wearing an atrociously obvious toupee and discussing Mr. Hanky from South Park on his cell phone. His caller did not appear to know who Mr. Hanky was, so this gentleman was valiantly trying to explain in terms appropriate for both his caller and the general population of the courthouse who (what?) exactly, a log of poop was.
Round 1 to the Courthouse.
I came back with all the correct paperwork on Thursday, fortified with a large Oreo milkshake and a sense of resignation. Another hour in line, only to find out that while I did have the correct paperwork, I had filled it out WRONG, and therefore had to try yet again. If only I’d READ, the clerk told me, I’d have filled it out correctly.
Look, I know I’m not a complete genius, but seriously. I know how to read, I’m generally good with directions, and filling out paperwork isn’t exactly brain surgery, but there were no instructions included with these forms, and shit, I’ve got the pregnancy brain fog. It was completely demoralizing.
Third time’s the charm, right? I took my completed paperwork, my two copies, a free parking spot, and managed to wander in, FIRST IN LINE. And Lo, finally, I had everything I needed. The clerk stamped away, case number, certified copy, original filed, CHUNK, CHUNK, CHUNK. Until we got to the part where I now have to pay. Do you want to know what it costs to simply file and request a hearing for a name change? The very same name change newly married women make? THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE DOLLARS.
Seriously, let that sink in for a minute. Almost $400 for a piece of paper the heterosexual population of Los Angeles County can obtain for around $80 (the current cost of a marriage license). It would appear that the LA County government has bought into the rumor that gays are swimming in cash with their trendy clothes and their vacations in Palm Springs, double income no kids (which, BY THE WAY, while maybe incidentally true for some gay MEN, is not true for lesbians, who are consistently poorer than their hetero counterparts), and have decided that a 500% markup on the cost of having the same last name is a totally fair way to increase revenue, or stick it to the gays, you pick.
We’re not even close to done yet! The next step is to file a notice of this name change in a newspaper of “general circulation.” The stack of papers I received during Round Two were supposedly supplied by a paper called “The Reporter” whose listed address is a service textile plant parking lot, and who has no online presence at all. I’m not even going to address why I need to publish my intent to change my name in a NEWSPAPER, like my creditors are all flummoxed about where to locate information about me, must be the paper, not that newfangled tubes and wires internest, or whatever.
Ok, fine, The Reporter does not exist, or at least doesn’t exist in a way that makes me feel confident handing them some legal paperwork and some money and then hoping for the best. Fortunately, there is the Long Beach Press-Telegram, and as one of the largest circulation papers in the country, I feel completely secure calling them up and having them run my legal notice for FOUR CONSECUTIVE WEEKS. Wanna know how much this costs? No, really, sit down. THREE HUNDRED FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS.
Could you just DIE? For those of you tallying at home, we are currently at SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS for this name change, and I haven’t even gotten a single new piece of identification. Seriously. SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS (forgive the all caps, but if ever there was a time for them, it is NOW) for a piece of paper that allows me to change my last name, like tons of married women do for EIGHTY DOLLARS, if they were smart enough to marry a man. Oooops, State of California, my bad.
Thank goodness I don’t work, so a court date of Tuesday at 1:30pm is no skin off my nose, but imagine, if you will, if I were an hourly worker who had to take time off work to go to court for this name change? Or if you were this same hourly worker who had to take time off every time you went to the courthouse, and you had to go as many times as I did (so, let’s see that’s about 4 hours of missed wages), plus you had to pay for parking every time, plus you don’t have access to a free copier, so you pay fifty cents per page to copy your originals in duplicate, and you made a mistake, like me, so you had to do it a couple of times?
It all adds up, is what I’m saying.
If you’ll recall, J and I are registered domestic partners in the state of California, which apparently entitles us to this:
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.
I’m still waiting for my “same rights.”