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Texas woman denied driver’s license over same-sex marriage

That’s the headline of this Observer story, and it’s just as infuriating as you think it is.

A woman who recently relocated from California says the Texas Department of Public Safety refused to issue her an accurate driver’s license because her last name was changed through a same-sex marriage.

After Connie Wilson married her partner of nine years in California last year, she took her wife’s last name, Wilson, which now appears on both her California driver’s license and her Social Security card, in addition to all of the couple’s financial and medical records.

This summer, the couple relocated to the Houston area with their three children for work. With her California driver’s license nearing expiration, Wilson took her documents to a DPS office in Katy last week to obtain a Texas driver’s license. When a DPS employee noticed that Wilson’s name didn’t match her birth certificate, she produced the couple’s California marriage license identifying her spouse as Aimee Wilson.

“Her only words to me were, ‘Is this same-[sex]?’” Connie Wilson recalled. “I remember hesitating for probably 10 seconds. I didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t want to lie, but I knew I was in trouble because I wasn’t going to be able to get a license.”

Wilson eventually responded that although California doesn’t differentiate, she happened to be married to a woman.
“She immediately told me, ‘You can’t use this to get your license. This doesn’t validate your last name. Do you have anything else?’” Wilson said. “She told me I would never get a license with my current name, that the name doesn’t belong to me.”

Texas has both a state statute and a constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. However, Wilson contends she isn’t asking DPS to recognize her marriage, but rather trying to obtain an accurate driver’s license reflecting her legal name according to the state of California and the U.S. government.

“I’ve been deprived the freedom to drive a vehicle once my current California driver’s license expires,” Wilson said. “I’m further being deprived the freedom to use air travel, make purchases that require a valid photo identification, seek medical attention for myself or my children, as well as other situations that would require proving who I am legally as an individual.”

You can add “the right to vote” to that list, since Wilson’s California driver’s license is not an acceptable form of ID for voting purposes. This is apparently DPS policy. Wilson could seek a court order for her name change, but that costs hundreds of dollars and can take weeks, and why should she have to do that? Her name has already been legally changed, it’s just that Texas mulishly refuses to recognize it. We’re all waiting for the Supreme Court to knock this foolishness down, but every single day that Greg Abbott and the reactionary worldview he’s representing fight this is a day that people like Connie Wilson and her family suffer needless harm. Equality Texas and Sen. Sylvia Garcia are working on Wilson’s behalf in this matter, but this is all so unnecessary. There’s no public policy rationale to justify this. Change cannot come fast enough.

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3 Comments

  1. Jennifer Johnson says:

    She should try again at another location – maybe the clerk will not look that close. It’s worked just fine for others…

  2. Steven Houston says:

    While I don’t think the government has any business being involved in marriage, and that includes giving special incentives to those who are married, I think they should have issued her the license based on the fact that she has mighty big balls to make the following claims:

    “I’ve been deprived the freedom to drive a vehicle once my current California driver’s license expires,” Wilson said. “I’m further being deprived the freedom to use air travel, make purchases that require a valid photo identification, seek medical attention for myself or my children, as well as other situations that would require proving who I am legally as an individual.”

    She left the people’s republic of California, a state well known for being on the bleeding edge of “progressive thought”, to come back to Texas, a state well known for repeatedly taking an opposing stance to same sex marriages. To suggest she didn’t think it would be a problem or that she might be denied having things done her way is a bit of a stretch to say the least. Knowing all these matters are slowly changing via the courts and legislative process at nearly a glacial pace across the country (not just here), she’d have to be pretty dim to think she would necessarily find smooth sailing. In short, it comes across as a preplanned stunt.

    As far as the suggestion she has already “suffered needless harm” when none has been proven or her threat to file a lawsuit versus a far quicker petition makes me wonder if her relocation was in part sponsored for this very purpose. Again, I don’t think the state should be denying her nor should it be involved in such matters at all but all this just before election time seems mighty convenient.

  3. Bill Shirley says:

    Could someone inform me what it takes to change your name after a marriage in Texas? And maybe also California? The reporting on this issue has left me ignorant. Or are we assuming that everyone has been married and changed their names due to the marriage?

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