Mt. Zion, Ill., residents Bridget and Kathy Hanson, both 41, married Sept. 20 in a ceremony in Iowa. Upon returning to their state of residence, Bridget chose to change her last name to match her wife's, a tradition that many newlyweds honor.
The first step of the processrequesting a name change at the U.S. Social Security Administration's officewent smoothly according to Bridget, but the same could not be said for her trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles facility in Decatur, Ill., where a clerk denied her request for a name change.
According to Bridget, the clerk told her to "wait a minute" once she realized that she and Kathy's Iowa marriage was the reason for the request. After conferring with a supervisor at the facility, the clerk reportedly refused to grant Bridget's name change, referring to a memo on the issue that had been issued to the department. Bridget now holds two government-issued identification cards with two different names: One, her social security card, reads Bridget Hanson and the other, her Illinois driver's license, has Bridget Wiessmer, her maiden name.
When Bridget asked the clerk what she could do with her two identifications with two separate names, she was reportedly told: "How much do you really use your Social Security card?"
"We feel discriminated against," Bridget told Windy City Times. " [ The clerk ] said we can't change your last name because our state doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, but that's not my issue reallyit is, but it isn't. Right now, I just want to change my name."
Bridget said that a follow-up call to state Secretary of State Jesse White's Driver Services Department heralded the same response, causing her to mull taking legal action. When Windy City Times initially contacted the department, the response was, "Illinois doesn't honor gay marriage. ... It's not legal [ here ] ." Read more story below....
Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker had a different message, saying that the Decatur clerk had been mistaken: Bridget's Iowa marriage license and new Social Security card should have satisfied the state's requirements for a legal name change.
"The name change should have been allowed and I would apologize for the individual and anyone who may have been taken aback or offended by this mistake," Druker said. "The Social Security card is the overriding factor. That she was married in another state is irrelevant."
Druker also indicated he was not aware of the memo to which the Decatur clerk reportedly referred. He added all Illinois facilities will undergo an "education program" to make clear the department's policy on issuing name changes for same-sex couples married outside of the state.
The challenge Bridget faced in changing her last name is not without precedent. In June, Knoxville, Tenn., Traci Turpin was also denied a name change following her Washington, D.C. marriage to another woman. Because same-sex marriage is not recognized in her state of residence, Turpin's D.C. marriage license was considered invalid documentation for a name change.