Tennessee Denying Same-Sex Spouses Identification Name Changes

| by Jonathan Wolfe
article imagearticle image

Married same-sex couples in Tennessee are voicing frustration as their name-change requests for identifications are being denied.

Gay marriage is illegal in Tennessee. Not only is it illegal to marry someone of the same sex in the state, but Tennessee also does not recognize couples who were legally married in one of 13 states where same-sex marriage is legal.

For many same-sex couples who were married legally in a same-sex marriage state but have since moved to Tennessee, the state’s laws are proving problematic.

“I went into Cookeville for my new Social Security card using my marriage certificate, and they said I should have it in four days to two weeks,” said Tennessee resident Neil Stovall, who wants to change his name to Neil Irby in light of his recent marriage. “But what about the name on my driver’s license? My concealed handgun carry permit? To me, they’re denying me my constitutional right to happiness. The state government seems to have a problem with it when no one else does.”

The federal government recognizes same-sex marriages for the purpose of identification, but there is no such regulation at the state level. The result is couples with federal documents in which they go by one name and state documents that say another.

Executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project Chris Sanders recently said that “The system we have is untenable because couples are changing all kinds of other federal documents and being given inconsistent guidance in Tennessee,” Sanders said. “The short-term fix is for couples to go to court to get a name change. And the longer-term fix is for us to go to court and challenge the marriage amendment, which is what we’re doing.”

Sources: Talking Points Memo, Pink News