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Mich. driver’s license officials refuse name changes for married, gay couples

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Jonathan Oosting, APJesse (left) and Derek Melot.

Jonathan Oosting, AP
Jesse (left) and Derek Melot.

LANSING, Mich. — Don’t count on driver’s license officials in Michigan accepting name changes for gay people who are married.

The federal government and New York state may consider him Jesse Melot, but the Michigan Department of State insists he’s still Jesse Sherman.

A provision of the Michigan Constitution that voters approved in 2004 bans same-sex marriages, so he and Derek Melot went to New York to get married in October. He said the name change is a token of commitment.

“I love him, and I think that’s the best gift you can give someone,” Jesse Melot said. “This is for real. I love you. I want to take your last name.”

Afterward, Jesse Melot said he visited two Michigan Department of State offices with his marriage certificate seeking to have his new name put on his driver’s licenses. Clerks in both offices declined to do so, he told MLive.com (http://bit.ly/JI1Np4 ).

Although he could spend money to have his name changed legally, married people normally can do that just by showing a marriage certificate.

“It’s utter frustration,” he said. “If I had been a woman going to change my last name, it wouldn’t have been an issue. They’re profiling at the counter. My certificate doesn’t say ‘same-sex.’ It just says marriage. But they see the names, and they’re discriminating against me.”

Department spokesman Fred Woodhams said that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is simply trying to follow the law.

“The policy for staff is to not accept a same-sex marriage license to be consistent with the state constitution,” Woodhams said. “Anything that would lead the staff person to believe it is a same-sex marriage license would result in the document not being accepted.”

He said branch workers are not directed to be “on the lookout” for gay individuals seeking a name change, but they are told they cannot accept certificates from same-sex couples.

“Some marriage licenses may note the gender of the spouses or the spouses may both have traditionally male or female names,” he said.

Melot said it isn’t a matter of whether Michigan allows gay people to wed.

“I wasn’t asking them to recognize my marriage,” he said. “I was asking them to recognize a legally-binding document, period. I’m not trying to circumvent the system to get the state to recognize my marriage. All I’m looking for is my … license.”

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78 more reader comments:

  1. This is what it takes for the lawsuit and eventual overturning of gay marriage ban! So, I say all the better!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:07pm
  2. Assholes

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:07pm
  3. Why am I not surprised!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:08pm
  4. Lawsuit. People have a right to free association and to change their name to anything they choose.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:08pm
  5. I tell you what Louisiana is backwards as hell but when my friends got married in California and came back to Louisiana they issued her a new social and Id with her married last name. Idk if it was a fluke but it happened.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:08pm
  6. As a Michigander and a recently married gay man this is aggravating. We both kept our last names when we married in New York in September and our last names only vary by one letter but that is not the point.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:09pm
  7. “Das Fuhrer” Prick Snyder, AKA: Adolph of Lansing, will go and the laws will change.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:09pm
  8. Yep, lawsuits.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:10pm
  9. Michigan, the Last Frontier.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:10pm
  10. Sue them! Hit them where it hurts the most; in the wallet.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:10pm
  11. Same thing is happening to my wife in PA. :/

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:11pm
  12. A$$holes

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:11pm
  13. Wtf?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:11pm
  14. if you change your ss card and passport FIRST they cannot deny it

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:12pm
  15. If you get your passports changed using your marriage license and then submit it, a passport trumps local or state GOVT. True story

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:12pm
  16. Some friends of ours are having this issue in TX. My wife and I didn’t have this issue when we got married in 2010.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:12pm
  17. My spouse and I were married in Mass. Came hone to Ga they wouldn’t change my name. Back woods rednecks who cares. I paid money and had it changed legally in superior court. Ga will never recognize gay marriage. Hate people who judge me for who I love

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:12pm
  18. Same in Georgia… Even though my legal name on my Ss card is Jennifer Trudell -Butler the DMV refused to change my name on my license… So, I wore a super low cut top and lucked out with a straight, horny guy at the counter… Badda Bing

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:13pm
  19. Idiots.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:13pm
  20. Love will prevail #EqualRights #TimeIsNow we have a movement together it will happen !!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:13pm
  21. Lawsuit for sure. My marriage is proof that they are being singled out. My wife was able to change her name with both SOS and SS in the state of Michigan using our marriage license from New York. We got married on 2/17/13 and she didnt even go to change her name legally until just a couole months ago. Good luck guys and dont give up the fight!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:14pm
  22. More bullshit laws of some states!! You can change your name to anything except some profanity. What the hell gives with this crap? Soon marriage equality will be the law of the land..and they will have no fucking choice.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:15pm
  23. Definitely profiling because he’s male..

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:16pm
  24. only a matter of time.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:17pm
  25. This is not acceptable. But the LGBT community has to be realistic about the world we live in. It’s going to take time to educate people and have them accept us. Rome was not built in one day. baby steps…

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:17pm
  26. I called the supervisor of the dept of driver services who politely informed me that Ga does not recognize my marriage therefor they will not change my last name. You can all recognize my ass. So I paid to have it changed in superior court. We have a daughter together. Needed the same name Thanks for being closed minded rednecks GA.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:18pm
  27. Michigan needs to get with it!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:18pm
  28. This happened to me in Virginia because I was married in Maryland – “no gay papers here” is what I’m told at the Alexandria DMV. Makes matters complicated when my car insurance has my new last name but Virginia refuses to recognize what is on my marriage certificate, passport, and new social security card.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:19pm
  29. As a member of the lgbt community I understand being angry that we are not equal. However I do not agree that with Mich current laws he has a right to a free name change based on a marriage he got in another state. It is not a legally binding document in Mich. This is honestly ignorance. There is No lawsuit in this. He has the legal right to pay for the name change like anyone else. He wanted a state that does not recognize and has outright banned samesex marriage to then turn around and give him something it offers to only legally married couples. now we just sound whiny. We should be fighting real legal injustices. Like how he can’t get legally married.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:22pm
  30. Yet if it were a woman the right would be there if she married a man. I disagree with you - if you aren't going to recognize marriages from another state then don't recognize ANY marriages from other states.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:43pm
  31. but this comes back to them recognizing gay marriage. which I of course think they should. but since they do NOT then they do NOT have to recognize one from another state. They do recognize a man and a woman as legally married so therefore they recognize those marriages from other states. Legally they have the right...it was voted on and passed. It does not mean it is right but until we get those things overturned that is life. That is why we need to fight for marriage equality...but that is NOT what this is about. This is asking them to give this couple privileges that are for married couples(legally married couples) and they are NOT legally married in that state. If you don't like it move, or fight the marriage equality laws...don't get pissed when you can't have what married couples have when you know for a fact you are NOT married in your state. He can change his name legally to his husbands if he pays. But he feels like he should get special rights that go against what that states laws are...he is wrong....instead of focusing on things he legally has no claim to he should be working with the states gay rights advocates to get marriage equality....

    Replied on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8:12pm
  32. Bullshit FIRE the director.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:22pm
  33. Was the same for us in FL. I just changed my SS card and Passport. The DMV took then and changed my license

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:23pm
  34. No problem in Arkansas. My wife and I married in Iowa and once she had her conformation from SS that she had changed her name, she breezed thru the process for a new drivers license. Arkansas has a state amendment prohibiting same sex marriage also and does not recognize marriages from other states. Sorry y’all are having difficulties but I’m happy our state didn’t do that to us.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:25pm
  35. Wrong!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:27pm
  36. I hope eventually all the tight-ass, close-minded idiots will get the hell out of political offices and public services so that everyone will have equal rights. Happy New Year my friends, I wish you a wonderful 2014.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:30pm
  37. yes they are ignorant but I speak from experience just a couple of months ago. change your FEDERAL documents first. I changed my ss card first so no one could question it when i went to DMV. I’m in Ohio and they do the same crap.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:31pm
  38. When they get enough law suits to challenge their ignorance, they will come around. For now, this is just another slap in the face.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:31pm
  39. That sucks! I hate to hear the news!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:31pm
  40. Michigan just shot themselves in the foot. Now there’s proper foundation for a lawsuit to drag them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:37pm
  41. Whattttt! Personal moral, … above its working directions. No professional…. No ethnic…

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:39pm
  42. This is sad every human being should have the same rights not just the chosen few. gay, straight or bi we are all still human.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:41pm
  43. Where were you guys when I had this problem in CA a few months ago? I wrote everyone. Married in 2008 and the SSA gave us hell. Our city mayor intervened on our behalf and it was finally taken care of.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:42pm
  44. I tell ya it’s always something smh

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:42pm
  45. I’m sorry, I’m really not trying to be an asshole, and I’ve been an ally and a friend since I was a child, but what did you think was going to happen? You had to go to a different state to marry because the one you live in does not support marriage equality. Did you think they were just gonna say “oh, well you didn’t marry here, so ok”?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:43pm
  46. And I'm not by any means saying this is right, just asking why you are surprised by the outcome?

    Replied on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:44pm
  47. I have to agree – get Lambda Legal on your side and file lawsuits against the state (violates 14th Amendment of the US Constitution).

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:45pm
  48. & WE will continue FIGHTING for what is our EQUAL-RIGHTS!…Michigan…get over yourself !

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:45pm
  49. WTF!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:46pm
  50. The surprise of the outcome, is from a fact that other marriages from out of state are recognized regardless of gender Monica.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:46pm
  51. After marrying my wife in new york last uear I was able to change my name while living in michigan. I knew that there was a risk that they wouldnt accept my marriage certificate but they did and I was extremely thankful. I didnt go to the Lansing branch though.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:53pm
  52. Here in Texas, I went to court and legally changed my last name to my partner’s for $150. Then I went to the DMV with the paperwork and they changed my name on my drivers licsense. It was quick and easy. It sucks this was the only way, but this is the best we can do living in Texas.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:54pm
  53. Pity that Michigan is just going to drag it’s feet to the finish line with the current batch of inadequate leadership. Keep fighting the good fight. Make it a nightmare for them to keep rejecting us.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:57pm
  54. The legal name change in family court also enabled me to change my name on my social security card.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:59pm
  55. I got my ss card changed no problem…then Kansas pulled the state DOMA card…we married in Iowa an Kansas is refusing my name change!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:04pm
  56. It’s just a shame that our families have to go through all the expense of this to just get our LEGAL rights from a few BIGOTS…. I’m so sorry that we have to fight this way just to get what is legally (and really MORALLY right!) This should have happened a long time ago and this pains me more than I can tell you.) But I am glad it is happening now and we’re pushing it on. The genie is truly out of the bottle and we won’t go back.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:06pm
  57. Sue, sue, sue, sue, sue. The full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution was used successfully in the courts to support interracial marriage and should be used here. Since you are married in one state and sanctioned by the federal government, you are married in every state.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:09pm
  58. Change your name at Social Security office first.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:09pm
  59. lol lawsuit this shit. doma was overturned– and these officials are dummies who haven’t read the constitution.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:14pm
  60. we had no problems here in Arkansas. Thank God

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:15pm
  61. WTF, take them to court, sue sue sue! Michigan does not have a legal leg to stand on period.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:18pm
  62. Social Security trumps drivers license too, so does moving to a better state & taking your revenue with you

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:21pm
  63. Another hurdle to handle. We will over come!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:27pm
  64. He will have to have his name changed on his SS card first, then they will have to do it. It costs nothing

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:27pm
  65. My husband changed his name with no problems. You just have to know the proper way to do it

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:29pm
  66. Texas refuses to change our names too. What I have learnt throughout all the fighting is that you cannot and will not force acceptance. I am richer because I am living out in the open. No hypocritical friends and family asking me for money. I love my life.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:29pm
  67. Learned.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:30pm
  68. And yes, jusy in case someone chimes in….our names are already changed on SS card. No worries though we are here because of our jobs. We will be leaving soon to a state that is much, much, more accepting.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:32pm
  69. Another reason why my state sucks!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:34pm
  70. Mich. Just another d-bag state.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 7:41pm
  71. Isn’t it illegal fir them to refuse?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8:14pm
  72. They won’t do name changes in Nebraska either!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8:15pm
  73. There is someone who refuses to do his or her job and needs to be let go.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8:36pm
  74. Wow that is so f—ed up!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8:57pm
  75. mmmm oh dear, another legal battle

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 9:03pm
  76. Michigan sux

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 9:22pm
  77. People should be called by the names they choose, which is everyone’s simple right as long as no effort is being made to deceive or evade legal responsibilities. It’s long past time for Michigan to recognize marriage equality in ALL respects.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 9:32pm
  78. just a small speedbump..love the st bernards!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 9:32pm