By The Associated Press
JACKSON — Responding to a complaint, a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety said Tuesday that men can use marriage certificates to change their last names just like women.
DPS spokesman Warren Strain was responding to a letter from the ACLU of Mississippi sent Tuesday to DPS Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz. The letter said a man in south Mississippi was prevented from taking his wife’s name even though he showed his marriage certificate. The ACLU threatened to take legal action.
Strain said the man’s request was unusual, and employees who work at driver’s license stations were operating under an old practice of requiring a court order. He said the employees have been informed that men can use the same documents as women to change their last names.
“All the stations have been notified,” Strain said.
The letter from the ACLU was written on behalf of Robert Everhart of Pascagoula, who was born Robert McCarthy. He said he was turned down at three DPS offices when he tried to take his wife’s last name after their wedding in October 2011.
The ACLU said Everhart had no trouble changing his name with the Social Security Administration. He took his marriage certificate and the new Social Security card to DPS offices in Biloxi, D’Iberville and Pascagoula. He said officials told him he’d have to get a court order because changing a husband’s name was “not traditional,” the ACLU said.
Bear Atwood, legal director at the ACLU of Mississippi, said she hopes the department is sincere when saying it will allow men to use the same documents as women. She said the practice of requiring men to get a court order was a violation of state and federal law.
“What we want is for them to treat men and women equally and if that’s the step they’ve taken, then great. We’d like to have it in writing,” Atwood said.
The ALCU points out that Mississippi law clearly says “his or her” when outlining what can be used to change a person’s name. The statute lists marriage or divorce records, court orders or birth certificates.