Don't Ask, Don't Tell at Florida's DMV?

"We were trying to follow what we thought were the rules for being responsible drivers in the state of Florida, but basically were advised on how to get around the rules because the existing ones did not apply to us as a same-sex married couple."

Last month, I married my fiance of three years. We tied the knot in Connecticut, where it’s legal for adults of the same gender to marry.

It undoubtedly was the best day of my life. When we returned home to St. Petersburg, our first plan of action as a married couple was to get our last names hyphenated.

We went to the Social Security Office and – bing-bang-boom – we had our new cards within a week.

Next on the list was a new Florida driver license with our new married names. We took into consideration that we are not recognized as a married couple in the state of Florida.

To be sure we would be able to get new licenses, we called the Department of Motor Vehicles, and spoke with a DMV representative. We told him that we were a same-sex couple and seeking to change our last names on our driver licenses.

He said, “Ma’am, that is none of our business. If you have a valid marriage license and the required documentation (Passport, Social Security Card, proofs of Residency), we honor it.”

Awesome. Things were coming along a lot easier than either one of us anticipated.

Monday, we went to the DMV at 1800 66th St. North with all of our documents: Social Security Cards (with our new, hyphenated last names), passports, current Florida Driver Licenses and two Proofs of Residency.

The receptionist checked us in. We waited the typical long time for our turn to be seen. My wife was called first.

She asked the woman on the other side of the counter if she could scan the marriage license, because I would need it next when my name was called.

The woman refused and stated that Florida does not acknowledge same sex marriage and therefore she could not change the name on the driver license.

I could see from where I was sitting that there was an issue. Suddenly, I felt nervous and my stomach was in a knot.

When the worker explained what she had just told my wife, I responded that we had spoken by a phone to another DMV representative, who assured us we would not have a problem.

Her response was, “Well, he didn’t know what he was talking about.”

She continued to shake her head and told us there was nothing she could do. She said that the only way we could change our names on our Florida driver licenses was to go to a state that honors same-sex marriages and get a driver license there first.

I did not say anything, but wondered to myself: "Isn't that lying to claim proof of residence elsewhere just to obtain a driver license I could present at the Florida DMV?"

She said we also could present a passport with our name changes, in addition to the Social Security cards we had with us. Or we could get a court order showing that we had legally sought a name change that was not connected to our marriage.

After 15 minutes of head shaking and no progress, we decided to walk out the door. We were trying to follow what we thought were the rules for being responsible drivers in the state of Florida, but basically were advised on how to get around the rules because the existing ones did not apply to us as a same-sex married couple.

I have worked hard to do what is right my whole life. I am a St. Pete native, a college graduate, and recently I took my first full-time job as an online news reporter for Patch.com. I also had married the love of my life.

I never imagined being refused something so mundane yet important as having a driver license with correct information. I had taken for granted these basic privleges. I felt humiliated. We were denied service, and it felt personal.

Why were we assured equality from one DMV worker and yet refused by another? Here we are, with our federal Social Security cards identifying me by one name and our state driver license bureau by another.

I am not one to raise a fuss about things. But I wanted to know what happened and why things had to be so complicated.

I called the Department of Highway Safety and spoke with the communications officer, Ann Howard. She verified that we had all of our proper documents, but she could not give an answer as to why this occurred – other than the fact that we had a same sex marriage not acknowledged in Florida. We already knew that.

After Howard made sure that our marriage license didn't say "same-sex" anywhere on it, she suggested we go to the DMV separately. The marriage license looks no different than any other, so why not try to beat the system and hope an unsuspecting worker doesn't pay attention? Thanks for the advice, maybe we can try out that idea some other time.

Howard dug further to find a way for us to get our names changed, although it still separates us from the rest of the population. She phoned back.

I learned that in order to get our names changed on our driver licenses we would need to get new passports with our hyphenated last names.

The combination of that federal document plus the federal Social Security Card will grant us access to a name change on our Florida licenses, no questions asked.

People get their names changed every day, but because we don't "fit in" under Florida law, we must go over the river and through the woods to get a new driver license. 

From the public humiliation to the vulnerability of exposing the situation, this has been a challenging week to say the least.

As a gay married woman and resident of the area, I feel that there should not be such a gray area in dealing with a people's identities and their ability to conduct their life in a purposeful manner.

I guess in situations where I need matching forms of identification, I'll just tell them to draw straws as to which Rachel I am on that particular day.

The situation we were put in was distressing to the say the least – and  humiliating.

The area is so gray that the DMV's own rep interpreted it incorrectly on the phone to us and the state's communications director had to do research to figure things out.

Where does that leave someone like myself and my wife who are simply trying to do the right thing and follow the letter of the law?

Shelly November 17, 2011 at 02:42 PM
Well, I appreciate the article for what it is. As a (what was it called?) "true gay" I am looking at going through this next year as my fiance and I are going to New York to tie the knot. I found it very informative and take it for what it was meant to be...the hoops we might have to jump through and the sometimes misinformed process we might encounter. I do not see why it is made into a "gay vs straight" issue. Merely another government office that is not cohesive and informed. It might not be the workers fault, but it does need to be taken care of. The point is they tried to gather information beforehand that would circumvent any experience that was humiliating or offputting. They were misinformed and publically embarassed because of it. No one, gay-straight-black-white-mexican-christian-muslim-whatever, should have to go through that. I also want to comment that, great-you support some gays. I don't need anyone to judge me, just mind their own business. It is what it is people. Move on and learn.
SandyFishGirl December 08, 2011 at 12:34 AM
The DMV has become a nightmare for everyone! My 70 yr old mother, a licensed driver in FL for the past 30 years went through hell just to renew her license!
David Scott Duseau April 15, 2012 at 04:42 PM
My out of state driver's license has my married name on it. But the state of Florida will not recognize that as my legal name because the document showing my name legally changed is a same-sex marriage certificate.
katherineannfrancisco@gmail.com November 28, 2012 at 11:03 AM
The DMV providing misinformation shows lack of cohesion on the subject of gay marriage processing in government offices. There is not the same lack of cohesion in the department of straight marriage. There are mistakes, confusion, and hassles for straight married couples yes-- but it is not because there is an issue honoring their marriage license. As a straight woman, I say this is a straight-gay issue, and this story really touched me. I think passing this incident off as another blocked pipe in the plumbing of government offices is at the best naive, at the worst contributing to the problem. It's become a separate but equal thing for gays, and I know a lot of straight people that just don't seem to get it. They don't understand why domestic partnership isn't 'good enough' for gay people, and why gay people have to 'make a fuss' with 'obscene parades' and so on and so forth. What I hear there is "sit down, shut up, and stop bothering me with your petty discrepancies". I'm glad you DIDN'T sit down and shut up here Rachel. Good story-- good article! Thank you for not being afraid to express how you really felt, even at the ridicule and dismissal of others.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Candidly, I want to point out....I guess even in the gay world, different gays would take up different gay issues to fight for. If I ''were'' gay...I think one of my first priorities to fight for...would to work on the issue of only having a ''men's'' and ''women'' bathroom...lol. Of course, that dilemma is not as simple as it first seems. Do we need to keep it at just 2 choices? Or..do we need 4 choices...but wait...''4 choices'' would still not take care of the many sexual tendencies that are present. You have gay women who want to play the role of the ''man'', and you have gay women who want to still be the role of the woman, but want a female to play the male roll. Uh...then there are the transvestites...etc, etc, etc...the list is quite endless of how many bathrooms we need now. Agreed? Maybe stores should not even have bathrooms anymore? Maybe there should be entire stores you have to go in that have 20 or so bathroom choices to meet your quirk, but nothing to buy...just bathrooms to use? Ridiculous? I don't really think so. Then again. We could simply go the Starship Troopers route...and only have 1 bathroom and ''everyone'' uses it. I actually think this is where we are headed. I would gladly share the bathroom/shower room with Denise Richards...lol!
CJ November 28, 2012 at 04:42 PM
It appears to me that Rachel has not really had that much ''ridicule and dismissal of others'', here. She has mainly support in the comments. I have largely been the main, if not only descending voice here. I don't mind that many of the gays here are entirely convinced I am some sort of bad guy for stepping into this. That's pretty normal for them to react like that. I only hope that a handful , if only one gay person, sees that many straights don't hate them. Just don't expect us to cast a vote that helps gay issues...or to aid in the support or approval of gay lifestyle. I have no problems with working with gays, being friends with them, etc...as long as ''both of our viewpoints'' are respected. Gays should not be so hostile to straights simply because we don't help their cause. I have friends who are Democrats, for example...but we get along fine. It is often not that easy to feel welcome among gays. Many of you gays will find that amusing...that it is the straights who feel they are the odd man out...but often, that's exactly the way it is. Gays seem very thin skinned to debate of any sort concerning gay issues...such as this one. They seem ''above'' being challenged. Who do gays think they are...muslims...lol? All I can say, is that a gay Muslim must really be a tough act to follow and on a very high horse..
Jeannie November 28, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Understanding the difference between "descending" and "dissenting" will be a good step in the right direction. Hooked on Phonics is not always your friend.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Rachael has suggested that my comments don't address the article. I am sure I have not done a very good job at presenting my connection...but here it is: If I were to define exactly one point I am trying to make....that is the fact that it is not because there was gay marriage issues at the DMV that made the trip unpleasant for her....the DMV unpleasantness happened because the DMV is a pain in the butt ''for anyone''. Everyone ''usually'' GETS THAT. The DMV is ''never'' fun to go to. I read about the problems she was having...and basically laughed. Believe me...the hoops and circles she was being asked to jump through by the DMV over her problems were 100% normal and ''common''. Gays don't have some magic ticket to get them through the DMV with ease. I just moved here from another state...and I won't even ''go there'' explaining the dumb stuff the DMV is making our family do to not only get our new car tags...but everything else. You don't even want to know...it is every bit as hard as what Rachel is being put through. I big cause of the problem, that Rachel is failing to understand is that the Dept of Homeland Defense has made many procedures more complicated...but for a good reason. Learn to deal with these DMV problems like everyone does...and most importantly...don't expect the DMV to be nice about anything they do to anyone. They are like God..and they know it.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Jeannie...I ''do'' know the difference and thanks for pointing it out...but don't you think using a blog to correct people minor spelling, typos, grammar, etc errors is pretty lame. I write all that I wrote...and that is all you got out of it? You have problems. I could debate with you are how ''both'' spellings can indeed fit the sentence I wrote. I will admit, though, that you were correct here. It's a blog...and I obviously am a more accepting person that you think you are. That is another problem with gays...many of them often think they have the market cornered on being thoughtful , caring, loving, sensitive...and an endless amount of other complimentary words...but they are no better or worse than the rest of the human race. Even Gays have despicable people among them...and you are demonstrating you may be one of them. If you want to debate...fine. I'll listen to anything you want to say, but don't define who can or can't join in on a blog. Many people have good reason for struggling with writing, spelling, grammar, keyboard skills, etc. They are ''all'' welcome in my book to voice their comments...unlike ''your'' narrow world. I prefer to know people for what they ''really'' are ..not what ''spell-check'' can make them look like. Honestly? I sometimes spell so bad that spell check get's confused with me. So what. How about this...I want to be sure and get it right so you catch my true meaning...go jump in a lake.
Ann November 28, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Since when does the need to use a bathroom have anything to do with 'sexual tendencies'? Do you play a role in your relationship? I highly doubt that anyone in a long-standing relationship or marriage is playing a role. Are some people more masculine or effeminate? Of course. Does that make them gay or straight or a purple people eater? No. You claim to be partially supportive of the gay community, but what I see as a straight woman looking at your replies is a very thinnly veiled case of homophobia.
Jeannie November 28, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Who knew a simple correction would cause sooo much butt hurt? You've certain;y read a *lot* into my two sentence reply, I have never defined who can contribute intelligently to any blog. "Even Gays have despicable people among them...and you are demonstrating you may be one of them.". Assumptions don't make for intelligent dialogue - just for starters, I am not gay, I'm 100% hetero and I've been in a str8 relationship for 7 years with a fabulous man. Fail.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Anne...first word was ''candidly''. I was mainly joking, but I simply brought up a topic that is a valid one now that our society has reached a point where people have to accept varied sexuality. I was being funny. Ha ha? Why don't you see that? Are you telling me you don't see this being an issue sooner of later concerning public restrooms? For example..just to get more seriously to a point that should be more on point. How do you feel about a little boy (grade school age) going into a men's room...not knowing if there is a gay man, a transvestite....'''whatever''. Are you telling me there are ''zero'' concerns? I would argue that many an adult gay couple don't want kids subjected to gay activities until , they...as the kids parents...deem appropriate. My point is difficult to write...but easy to understand...and you should not have been so difficult to understand the underlying meaning. Are you one of these people who can see the forest for the trees? ''Homophobia''? You really don't want to go there. First...it is practically a ''made-up'' word. A person who dislikes gays is not ''phobic''...he is expressing his freedom of belief the same way gay people do theirs. Businesses, etc..may have to conform to ADA and/or Discrimination rules, etc...but we as ''individuals''...walking the streets and in our home, etc...don't have to like ''anything'' there is no law against individuals having a problem with gays...just like gays can dislike straights if they choose.
Ann November 28, 2012 at 06:39 PM
CJ You clearly need to be able to distinguish between someone who is gay and someone who is a pedophile. Gay men or women don't go recruiting children - nor do they hang out in public restrooms having sex. So no, I wouldn't worry about a child going in a rest room because someone in there might be gay - I'd worry because there are too many pedophiles in the world. Two completely different things and if you don't recognize that, you've proven my point.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 06:41 PM
You like to throw rocks when everyone else is throwing snowballs...and run...don't you? Your ''simple correction'' was read loud and clear....I did not read any more into in that what you meant. You have an inflated view of yourself, and are a very poor liar. Being a liar looks just as bad on a gay person as it does a straight person.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 07:12 PM
You are really something. It's good to have people see comments like you write, so others can be made more aware of how extreme some people's views are. Of course I know the difference between a pedophile and somebody who is gay. Your reply is very naive and childish. I never meant to imply ''all'' gays are pedophiles..but there certainly ''are'' many who are. As I said...there is a group of gays out there that I am sure even the mainstream gay people would admit they are an embarassment to the rest of them. For the sake of trying to be civil, we have to keep thing clean here...but you clearly are not thinking. Considering the high number of gays among us...then I don't need to point out just how much foolishness you just wrote. I don't think anyone could prove anything to you, Anne. You are way out there. You seem like you are probably a real mean and angry person.
Jeannie November 28, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Quote from CJ: "Gays seem very thin skinned to debate of any sort concerning gay issues...such as this one. They seem ''above'' being challenged." Your hypocrisy is astounding, you concocted a poorly written novella in response to a two sentence comment. Are YOU above being challenged? I won't contribute to the further degradation of this thread by further feeding into a bitter, nonsensical, hypocritical, vitriolic and aimless troll. Go kick rocks. I'm finished with your drivel.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Just an observation, one that I find amusing. This blog is an old one. It is one of those you think is ''dead'' and then a comment pops back up months later...lol. I am ''guessing'' what sparked this ''renewed'' life of comments here today was the story about Dolly Parton and her comments about her sexuality. Pretty funny sometimes how one thing can lead to another. I have noticed that most of my debate here has been with female gays. I don't like ''words''...but obviously I am referring to ''lesbians''. Many of you may find this mildly amusing and not so surprising..and also very male chauvinist. Sorry, I can't do anything about that...but my beef IS NOT with female gays. I Iove women, so obviously the gay ones I find very much a turn on. That goes way back to 60's and 70's Playboys. Us men basically got what we asked for today by what we showed interest in 40-50 years ago and further back than that. We have always like ''girls being girls''. The men thing is weird to me...but if they girls like to play, then I think it is OK. It makes it a much funner place to live. Sorry if I have been a jerk.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Anne. You wrote: ''You claim to be partially supportive of the gay community, but what I see as a straight woman looking at your replies is a very thinnly veiled case of homophobia. ''Look'', Anne....I never actually claimed I was ''supportive of the gay community''. With me, it's not that simple. I generally support gays if it seems like it ''fits'' them. Face it...from early childhood...there has ''always'' been kids who never quite ''fit-in'' with their own gender. ''Why'' has never been all that important. All people deserve the chance to be happy. I have blended with this thinking to integrate it into my own thinking to ''accept what I can not change''. Life is too short. God will sort it all out. That said...I ''do not '' support gays who I perceive to be doing simply out of promiscuity...simply to be nasty. If you have not noticed...there appears to be a large segment of the gay community like this. I personally think that group of gays discredits the more legitimate (for lack of a better term) ones. Obviously there are going to be gays...no matter what group they are from...that I (or anyone) am not going to like. It is not because they are gay. It is because I would not like them under any circumstances. You may be one of those. You seem to have this ''all in'' or not attitude with gays. Respect the boundaries of others. However ''thin'' it seems, I don't have to like ''all'' gays to be considered a fair person. You just like to cause trouble.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Oh Jeannie....I think the appropriate things to say that the gays often say..is ...''don't be a hater''.... or ''Don't go away mad, just __ _ ___.... You are in the wrong place if you don't want to read ''poorly written novella''...but that is a good one. We can't all be as sharp as you.
Ann November 28, 2012 at 08:00 PM
CJ - I am far from mean and angry. I don't appreciate people who make generalizations based on sexual preference, race, gender, whatever. Your insinuation that every woman replying to your foolishness is a lesbian is absurd. Your comment that lesbians 'turn you on' is disgusting. It shows what type of person you truly are - not one I would associate with. It's opinions like this that perpetuate the stereotypes, the hatred and the antiquated laws. And with that, I'm done with this discussion.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 08:09 PM
...and calling myself a male chauvinist was not good enough for you...I'm so hurt you are leaving...but you are right about not being appreciated... I think lesbians turn on every man I have ever known (especially with beer)...not the the lesbians you know...not the man hating ones...the friendly ones. You know what they say about that door as you head out it...right?
Kristin Handing November 28, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I guess being straight has not caused you as many struggles with things like getting your correct name placed on your drivers license because with everything you stated, you did not mention one thing you have really had to endure that could compare to what Rachel and her wife experienced. This story does deserve sympathy and empathy. There is no reason a married couple, same sex or not, cannot go to the DMV and get their married names on their license. I can see how the incident at the DMV was humiliating. They should not have had to go through that. Show a little compassion. If one state acknowledges gay marriage, they all should. What makes gay marriage different from one state to another? Love is love and marriage to the one you love is the same regardless of sex anywhere if you ask me. Wedding rituals and traditions may vary from state to state, culture to culture, person to person but at the end of the day, marriage is entered into because of LOVE. Wake up ... read the story again...
Jeannie November 28, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Anne, CJ has interpreted the end of our dialogues with him as evidence that we are leaving the conversation, not that we will simply not be engaging specifically with him anymore going forward. He cries on one hand at what he interprets as someone judging who should and should not participate in a blog, and then turns right around and tells two of us to leave LOL. I don't expect much from this individual - this is all coming from someone who admittedly waxes nostalgic for the Playboys he used to look at in the 60s. It is really more evocative of pity than of anger...this guy is a fossil who can't assimilate into the society of the new millenium. Must be a tough spot to be in.
Kristin Handing November 28, 2012 at 08:30 PM
"Some" support to the gays? You refer to gay people as another species. And you either support it or you don't but keep in mind there is no reason not to support true love regardless of sex, race, religion, whatever. Open your eyes...
CJ November 28, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Yes...I am somewhat of a fossil...but not a total one yet. I actually don't do to bad ''assimilating into society'' for someone my age. Even the Borg would leave me alone. You might be surprised. And as far as ''this is all coming from someone who admittedly waxes nostalgic for the Playboys he used to look at in the 60s''... hmmm....you are condemning virtually all men who are over 40. After that, Playboy was not dirty enough. Many went to Hustlers, etc....you know the more smutty stuff like you probably prefer. Me? I still actually prefer Playboy just fine. For the articles, of course. My real life has all the spice most would need....but there is always room for more women. By all means...''stay''. I am nobody here. I just misunderstood....I thought you said you were leaving. Excuse me. If you review what I have said, my comments have not been that bad for you to be so upset. You are the one getting all bent out of shape and taking this in a bad direction. Some of us here were having a fairly decent ''talk'' about the related issues until you mean one showed up. Mellow out. It hard to understand why they call you ''gay'' when you act like this. There is nothing gay about it. Ease up and have more fun here...we are just talking about lesbians. Geesh.
CJ November 28, 2012 at 09:07 PM
I am not going to lay out step by step the hard times and unnecessary expense that can stem from moving out of state, to Florida, since 911, gay marriages or not. Those of you that can relate to what I am saying know. My point on this is that the ''red tape'' is simply that. Don't cry about it...just do what you have to do...and don;t expect special rules for you just because you are gay. That said, I agree the difficulties she is going through are hard...but the point is...there is a way to do it...so quit crying and just get it done. Other than that...I do indeed wish them happiness in their marriage. By the way...I somehow missed what you were trying to teach someone who has been married for 35 years?? I do take back what I said about how this situation does not deserve sympathy and empathy...I just don't agree to what degree of it she feels she deserves.
Jeannie November 28, 2012 at 11:34 PM
"It hard to understand why they call you ''gay'' when you act like this." Reading comprehensions is apparently not among CJ's strong suits either...he is still insisting I'm gay *facepalm*
CJ November 29, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Frankly, you have been so rude, I gave up long ago giving you much serious thought or replies. I have tried to just generally shoot the bull here...but you are a natural trouble maker. You have me confused for someone who cares about you.
Laura coke-giancone January 19, 2013 at 07:17 AM
Thank you for writing this. Unfortunately even two years after you wrote this, the exact same thing happened to me and my wife today at an Orlando DMV. We were denied access even with our social security card and passports due to the fact that our marriage certificate not only was from New York but we were a same sex marriage. Even with documentation from the DMV website showing that passports trump marriage licenses for changing your name, the manager continued to refuse us and humiliated us. She told us we can go to another DMV to see of we would be honored a new license but would not get one at her location no matter what. We went five miles away to a different location which was in a different county and were given the ability to get a license finally. There was still a hassle with it all because on top of denying us, the manager put a block on our accounts making us not allowed to change anything with our licenses to screw us over. Luckily there were willing and caring enough workers at this location to help us. It was a very stressful 5 hours. Thank you again. Glad we were not the only ones that dealt with the bullshit of ignorant people.
CJ January 19, 2013 at 07:59 PM
It's sad that you label people simply making you obey the rules and procedures that are in place for ''everyone''...that you label them ''ignorant''? You see...and I know this is a shock to you...gay people ''do not'' have the right to by-pass rules that others have to folllow. Gays just think they do. I know...it's a rough game.


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