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Marriage Equality

Texas DMV to Married Gays: Go to Court or Get Divorced

Texas DMV to Married Gays: Go to Court or Get Divorced


A gay man married in Iowa says the Texas DMV discriminated against him when an employee refused to allow him to change his name to his married surname.


A gay man in Texas was in for an unpleasant surprise when he tried to update his driver's licenses to his new, married last name.

Michael Miller Gribble and Barry Gribble, who were married in their home state of Iowa, moved to Texas in September, reports The Des Moines Register. But when Miller Gribble recently went to update his driver's license at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Pflugerville, Texas, he says the employee who served him was rude while also giving him an ultimatum.

Because Texas does not recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states, the employee told Miller Gribble that his marriage license did not satisfy the requirements for a formal name change. The Register reports that the DMV clerk told Miller Gribble that "he had two options: pay to obtain a court-ordered name change or get a divorce."

"I started shaking, it had me so upset," Miller Gribble told the Register. "I thought, 'this is outright discrimination.'"

Miller Gribble isn't alone in his outrage. Last week a married same-sex couple in Florida filed a lawsuit against that state's DMV after officials threatened to cancel the driver's licenses of both men when they managed to change their last name to their legally married surname. Similar incidents have occurred in other states with anti-marriage equality laws still on the books, including Nebraska and South Dakota.

The state constitutional amendment that lets Texas refuse to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states was struck down by a federal district court in February, and an appeal of that decision is scheduled to be heard at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in early January. But while the state appeals, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage remains in force in Texas.

Given the ongoing litigation and possible forthcoming changes, Miller Gribble says both Equality Texas and Lambda Legal declined to take up his case at the moment. But that hasn't dampened his outrage or commitment to change.

"Every single government document I own, minus my birth certificate, has my new legal name on it," Miller Gribble told the Register. "But none of these legal documents are acceptable for me to get my driver's license here. They don't deny heterosexuals marriage certificates as proof of name changes."

Miller Gribble believes he may have found a way around the state's refusal to accept his name change, though. He has already changed his change his name with Social Security, a federal agency that recognizes same-sex marriages as long as they are legal where they were performed. With that updated documentation, Miller Gribble plans to apply for a passport card in his new legal name, then return to the DMV and seek a legal name change with that documentation instead of his marriage license.

But changing his name on his passport card (which allows for land travel only) cost him $55, which Miller Gribble says just makes the state's discrimination sting even more.

"Until this happened, I never knew being gay will cost you more," he toldthe Register.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to clarify inaccuracies in the inital report.

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