Married same-sex couple in Florida fights to keep their correct last name on drivers’ licenses
November 20, 2014
EDITORS' NOTE: On November 25, Dan and Scott Wall-Desousas filed a federal court case, Wall-DeSousa v. Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, seeking respect for their marriage in Florida.
In December of 2013, Dan and Scott Wall-Desousas were married in New York after being together for ten years. They had a small, sweet ceremony, and celebrated after at the historic Stonewall Inn. When they returned to their home state of Florida, however, their marriage was not respected by the state.
Nevertheless, the couple planned on having their legal identification changed to reflect their newly hyphenated last names. They each went to separate DMVs to change their names on their licenses with their out-of-state marriage licenses.
Although Dan was easily issued a new driver’s license, Scott had a more difficult time. At first, the clerks would not recognize his out of state marriage license as a legal document. But after months of going back and forth to different DMVs, Scott was finally issued a new license.
Then, on October 30, the couple was featured on a news segment celebrating their recent name-change and marriage. Days later, they received two letters from the DMV in the mail – one for each of them – threatening to cancel their licenses indefinitely on November 25th if they did not change their names back to their maiden names by then. “It’s been emotional and frustrating,” Dan sighed, explaining why it’s important that they are able to share their last name. “I see us as a unit.”
The couple has no plans to change their names -- even if that means they will have their drivers’ licenses taken away. They know they are married, and they want their last names to reflect that. Dan, a teacher, will have to walk to work if his license is taken away. “The school is six miles from my house,” he said. “If that means walking, I’m going to do it!”
“I would rather lose my driver’s license than my married name,” Scott said.
The couple’s names have been changed on all state documents, including medical insurance and voter IDs. If they were to change their names on their licenses, their names would be different on these documents, something that could prove problematic throughout life.
As the couple examines their other legal options, they urge their state to respect their marriage. It helps that they’ve seen a groundswell of support from many of their community members are standing with them in their fight for respect. “It’s bigger than us,” Dan pointed out. “It gives us fuel to move on.”
For most married couples in Florida, changing these documents would never be a problem. However, because the state does not respect Scott and Dan’s legal marriage, they are being forced to look into hiring a lawyer to help them secure something as simple as a name change.
Scott and Dan just want to be treated like all other Floridians - but Florida's anti-marriage laws require them and other same-sex couples to jump through hoops, denying them the basic security that marriage is designed to provide.
As the couple stands strong in the face of the state of Florida’s hurtful actions, they think forward to their life together. They have hope that, soon, this will no longer be an issue for couples like them. “I see the future and growing old with this one,” Dan said. “Everyone deserves the right to be with who they wish and to have happiness and security. I want that for my country.”