Woman sues to use wife’s name on South Carolina driver’s license


COLUMBIA, S.C. — A woman who says South Carolina officials refused to let her use her wife’s family name on her driver’s license has filed a federal lawsuit, another in a string of recent cases challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

South-CarolinaThe lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in Columbia.

Attorneys for Julie McEldowney of Lexington County say she legally changed her name with the Social Security Administration after marrying her wife in the District of Columbia earlier this year.

Armed with her marriage license and federally-issued paperwork reflecting her name change – documents, her lawyers write, that many couples frequently use to change their information on state-issued cards – McEldowney went to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to get a license with her married name.

But, according to court filings, the DMV has twice rejected applications to have her married name on her driver’s license. This exclusion, McEldowney’s attorneys argue, violates her constitutional rights and is discriminatory based on her sexual orientation. The lawsuit asks a judge to order state officials to allow McEldowney to get a license with her married name, and to rule that the DMV’s actions were unconstitutional.

The lawsuit names Gov. Nikki Haley and DMV director Kevin Schwedo as defendants. South Carolina hasn’t responded in court, and spokesmen for both officials did not immediately respond to request seeking comment.

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Probate judges in some South Carolina counties began taking applications for same-sex marriage licenses earlier this month. That move came after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a decision by a federal appeals court with jurisdiction over the state.

But the state Supreme Court put the licenses on hold pending the outcome of another federal case in Columbia. In that case, another couple married in Washington, D.C., wants the court to force South Carolina to recognize their union.

Attorneys for that couple say there are no longer any issues for the court to consider, given higher courts’ actions. State prosecutors say in filings that the case belongs in state, not federal court, because it “seeks to decide the core question of two people’s marital status.”

A Charleston couple that applied for a license after the U.S. Supreme Court’s inaction has also sued South Carolina, suing seeking the right to be married. A judge plans to meet with attorneys in Charleston on Friday to discuss how that case will proceed.

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