ST. PETERSBURG – Florida does not recognize same-sex marriage, which can pose problems for gay couples who wed out of state and try to use their marriage certificate as a legal document back home.
That was the experience of Patch reporter Rachel Jolley, who went to the Department of Motor Vehicles in St. Petersburg to put her married name on her driver license.
Although Jolley had been advised over the phone by a Department of Motor Vehicles represenatative that she coule present her Connecticut marriage certificate to complete the name change, she was refused service in person.
Ann Howard, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said: “The out-of-state marriage certificate is a piece of paper that means nothing to the state of Florida. That is correct.”
“She was ill advised when she made the phone call, and that is unfortunate,” Howard added.
Same sex couples from Florida who wed out of state and try to change their last names on driver licenses back home confront questions and limitations imposed by state law. Howard said other same sex couples have run into the same dilemma in Florida, when trying to put their new last names on driver licenses after marrying out of state.
But she added: “The law is very clear. It doesn’t recognize any document related to same-sex marriage, because it is not recognized under the Florida Constitution.
So how do married same-sex couples change their Florida driver licenses to match federal Social Security cards and other federal documents that identify them?
Howard did some research. There are a couple of solutions: Couples can get or update their passports with their new last names, as well as Social Security cards. Both are federal documents. Their same-sex marriage certificates will be accepted and recognized under federal law, she said.
Once they have updated passports, they can go to the Florida DMV with the required two documents showing their new names. They will be granted a new Florida license with their new last names. The out-of-state marriage license will not be needed to make the change.
However, a New York Times article from 2009 contradicts her conclusions about federal recognition. In the article, which examines the challenges married same-sex couples face changing their names, reporter Tara Siegel Bernard writes that it is possible to use a marriage certificate to change a Social Security Card, because the office honors state licenses.
But the reporter also noted that other federal documents may pose problems, because the federal government does not recognize the right for same sex couples to marry.
Yet same-sex couples should be able to use their marriage certificates to get their names changed on passports under a 2-year-old State Department rule, though there has been criticism that the policy is not consistently applied.
In Jolley's case, she already had her new Social Security Card and had tried to use that – along with her Connecticut marriage license – at the DMV, per initial instructions by a representative confused about Florida's rules.
Howard said another option for newly married same sex couples is to go to court and legally change their names in the state of Florida, just as any other resident has the right to do under state law, regardless of the reason for it. The cost can run up to $400 or more.