All News & Blogs
Melissa Landis (left) and her partner, Cyndee (right), celebrate their wedding with their daughter, Anne Hatton.
Erika Horn/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 12/7/2012
In 2000, at the request of then-Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood, West Virginia lawmakers passed their own version of a Defense of Marriage Act, specifying that the only legal union is one between a man and a woman.
That law says any "public act, record or judicial proceeding of any other state" regarding a same-sex marriage, "or a right or claim arising from such relationship, shall not be given effect by this state."
"If this law were not in effect," Dale said, "we would have taken the marriage certificate on its face value as an official record and used it."
Since January, people whose names have changed since birth have faced new hurdles in proving their identities. They must produce multiple forms of ID and proof of name changes to obtain, transfer or renew a driver's license.
The state recognizes passports, heterosexual marriage certificates, divorce decrees that order a name change and court orders, Dale said. Proof of residency is also required.
The process is often a hassle for women, who are more likely to change their names after a marriage, but Dale said many people change their names for other reasons, often because they just don't like the one their parents chose.
A Social Security card isn't good enough in Landis' case because it's not evidence of a legal name, Dale said. Her Virginia license merely shows she was a valid driver, so West Virginia could waive the written and road skills tests.
"Her only solution," he said, "is to go to court and have a judge order a name change."
Brenda Green, executive director of West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union, said Thursday she isn't surprised by the situation. It's just another way the state's marriage law discriminates against a portion of the population, she said.
"That she should have to jump through these extra hoops is discriminatory, most definitely," Green said.
Even women who don't marry a same-sex partner are discriminated under the DMV policy, Green argues. A woman who divorces and wants to change her name back, for example, has to pay an extra free that her ex-husband doesn't.
Landis said she can't afford a lawyer. Nor will she seek a license in her ex-husband's name.
Her marriage certificate, she adds, doesn't specify the gender of either spouse.
"It doesn't even specify bride or groom," she said. "If one of us had an androgynous name like Jesse or Pat, we'd probably fly right through the system."
Earlier this year, retiring Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, introduced a bill to give gay and lesbian couples the same legal protections as heterosexual married couples. They should have the same safety net to deal with the death of a parent or the loss of a job as married couples, he argued.
Fairness WV, which advocates on behalf of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, said it was the first time a civil union bill was introduced in West Virginia.
It went nowhere.