A Nebraska woman who took her wife’s last name has been denied a driver’s license with that name, even though it’s on her other legal documents, because the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.
Sue Stroesser, formerly Sue Kirchofer, changed her name when she married Mary Stroesser in 2009 in Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal, the Omaha World-Herald reports. At the time, the women lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa, just across the Missouri River from Omaha. The couple and their sons recently moved to Omaha, where Sue Stroesser grew up.
When she went to the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles in July to get a new driver’s license with her married name on it, she presented her Iowa marriage license as proof of her name change, only to be told by a staffer that the DMV could not accept it, as Nebraska’s state constitution prohibits same-sex marriage, including recognition of such marriages that were performed elsewhere.
“At the core of my pain and shock is that I am from Omaha,” Sue Stroesser told the World-Herald. “I was born and raised here. These are my people, and these are Mary’s people. I am left feeling angry, sad, and a little bit empty.”
Her Social Security card and passport both recognize her as a Stroesser, as do her credit cards and bank account. “I have a Nebraska state license to practice in my health care profession,” she said. “I work in Nebraska as a Stroesser. I have paid Nebraska taxes for three years as a Stroesser. And I’m denied a driver’s license?”
She has a valid Iowa driver’s license, but her lack of a Nebraska license is causing various complications. For one, she has to have that license to change her car insurance from an Iowa policy to a Nebraska one. The insurer, she told the World-Herald, has extended the deadline for presenting the new license, but she also wonders what other problems will come up. The only way she can obtain a Nebraska license with her married name, DMV officials told her, is to go to court to have her name legally changed.
While support for marriage equality has risen greatly since Nebraska voters passed their constitutional amendment banning the practice in 2000, the paper notes, there is still far to go before equality is a reality.
“Progress has been made that’s life-changing and very affirming for a lot of people,” Stroesser told the World-Herald. “But then I run into something that happens to me at the DMV, and it feels like I go back in time. I’ve been a Stroesser for a long time. I’m not asking for recognition of my marriage with Mary. I am asking for state identification with my current legal name.”
Other same-sex spouses have reported problems with the DMV as well, the newspaper notes. Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage is being challenged in court, as are bans in 31 other U.S. states and territories without marriage equality.