PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: DPS finally understands name changes

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

When did anyone think a Mississippi man couldn’t change his surname to his wife’s after marriage, or change his name, period?
In a place where men have reigned supreme, the idea that they don’t have the ability to change their names for any good reason is simply amazing.
Of course, same goes for women, whom we’ve always assumed will change their surnames after marriage.
Back in the day, when I first had occasion to make that adjustment, which I didn’t, someone actually had the nerve to ask me if I were going to quit work?
Huh? It would be ludicrous today – a mere 40 years after my question – to ask a near-marriage female if her acquisition of the marital document raised issues of being employed or not.
But back to the issue at hand: Earlier this week, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety was compelled to admit that men may use their marriage certificates to change their last names, just like women do.
This issue arose because a Pascagoula man changed his last name after his wedding last October, then wanted to have his driver’s license reflect the adjustment, just like he’d done with Social Security.
He did not need a court order, which is what his initial instruction was from DPS in Gulf Coast offices.
No way, the ACLU said. Thus, DPS woke up to 2012.
Frankly, in many instances, any adult can change his or her name just by using it. That’s recognized in more than 45 states without paperwork. But some institutions like banks or government require an official change. In Mississippi, that comes in chancery court.
A marital name change, though, has become a universally accepted reason. I recall it was quite popular back in the 1970s to hyphenate a new name for both, such as Smith-Jones.
If you take it to court to have your name changed, you’ll need to swear that it’s not for fraudulent or other illegal purposes, such as evading liens or debts or to defame someone else.
And generally, a person can’t choose a name intended to mislead, such as taking a celebrity’s name, or that is intentionally confusing, incites violence or is a racial slur, a threat or obscenity.
Well, that cuts out a lot of foolishness. Or does it?
In 1979, a Minnesota court denied the name change to “1069” but agreed “Ten Six-Nine” was OK. Perhaps that’s why former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, number 85, took on a last name of Ochocinco. (Recently, when he married briefly, he went back to Johnson.)
Nowadays, some states allow new names before and after sex-change surgery. And immigrants can take on Americanized names when they apply for naturalization.
It’s just interesting to me that DPS wasn’t ready for the Pascagoula man’s request or that it didn’t have a history of granting such changes.
So, Bubba, if you’re ready to take on your Lady Fair’s surname, it shouldn’t be a legal problem any more.

Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. Contact her at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.