A Tennessee couple is suing their home state for the right to choose their son’s last name.
Kim Sarubbi and her husband Carl Abramson chose the surname they would like to give their new son back when their first child was born.
“We said, ‘All right, if we take the first three letters of each of our names, a-b-r and s-a-r, it perfectly combines to s-a-b-r. Sabr,’” Abramson told NPR.
But their first two children, who have the last name Sabr, were not born in Tennessee.
The Sabr family — as they are collectively known — recently moved to Nashville from Santa Monica, California. Their first two children were born in states where assigning a name to a child was perfectly legal and no one gave them any trouble over their decision.
“With the first two, there was never an issue. It wasn't even a thought. We figured, ‘Oh, we can name our children whatever we want,’” Abramson said.
But the state of Tennessee says the new addition to the family — a boy the couple wants to name Camden Sabr — can’t have the name of his siblings.
Sarubbi told WSMV that she got a call in June from the Tennessee's vital records office the day after her son was born. They told her she couldn’t use the name Sabr because a state law requires that the baby’s last name be the same as the father’s last name or a combination of both parent’s names.
The state’s law librarian, Eddie Weeks, said the law, which dates back to the 1970s, makes it clear that “you cannot combine two names in any way other than the whole last name of both parents, or either surname of either parent.”
The couple decided to sue the state, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, to get the law changed.
"It's about changing the law. It's an outdated law," Sarubbi said.
“It's a parental right to name your child whatever you want. It has no bearing on the state whatsoever,” Abramson said. “Our first two children have Sabr. So to have two kids with one name, but we can't name the other one Sabr. It's just bizarre.”
The Sabrs could, for $150, have the child’s name changed legally in court. But they said they want to have the right to place the name directly on the birth certificate.
State officials have declined to comment on the suit, citing pending litigation as the reason.