by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
As a woman in a long-term relationship with another woman in a state where gay marriage is constitutionally banned, and having just had a child, I am reading the thread about women changing their names with great interest. It’s not that the topic is new to me; I’ve had the discussion with many of my straight female friends. But I haven’t seen the experience of same-sex couples reflected your reader’s comments.
For two women (or men, I imagine) who would like to get married and/or start a family, this discussion takes place on a different plane. My partner and I can’t get married, but one of us could change her name. In many states, doing so would require going to court, and in some of those states, a judge can refuse the name change just because he doesn’t agree with the same-sex relationship. For many same-sex couples, going through the stress, financial costs, and potential heartache of getting a name change is an important aspect in declaring their relationship to the public so that they seem “legit.” So this is yet another arena where DOMA and other laws regulating same-sex marriage affect those couples in a way that most straight couples don’t even think about.
My partner and I have retained our respective “maiden” names, but when my son was born three months ago we gave him a hyphenated last name. Admittedly, it isn’t a very elegant name and it is a mouthful, but it was important to us that he be official “ours,” even though right now my partner has no legal ties to him, since I am the birth mother. I’ve read (though not confirmed myself) that in many states, law dictates the last name that is put on the birth certificate, and same-sex parents would not have that option.