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article imageSouth Dakota denies lesbians drivers licenses in married name

By Kim I. Hartman     Feb 6, 2011 in Lifestyle
Sioux Falls - A lesbian couple were denied South Dakota driver’s licenses in their married names because of the state’s 2006 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages and civil unions and denied their recognition.
Two Sioux Falls women, who were legally married last October, have been refused driver’s licenses in their married name by the Department of Public Safety, because the state of South Dakota does not recognize same-sex marriage, reports LGBTQ Nation.
When Ashley Stabe and Amy Muston were married last year in Iowa, the couple chose to share Stabe’s last name as their legal name. Muston was able to change her credit cards, billing records and social security card but when she went to apply for new drivers license she was surprised at the response of the motor vehicles department employee, according to an interview with the Sioux Falls' Argus Leader.
State law requires drivers and new applicants to provide legal documentation of a name change when applying for a license, and although Muston admits she didn't read the bold print on the back of the application that clearly state that no documentation related to same-sex marriage was acceptable, this didn't diminish the shock she experienced, she told the Sioux Falls reporter.
"She basically threw the certificate back in my face like it was a piece of garbage and said 'this is no good,' " Stabe said. "At first I thought she thought it was fraudulent." Stabe pressed her case, showing the employee a federally issued Social Security card with her new name on it. "She said, 'that's no good, either,' " Stabe said.
The employees then explained that South Dakota doesn't recognize same-sex marriages and won't accept the certificates as proof of a new name, reports the Argus Leader. "I was shocked," she said. "I wasn't applying for benefits, I was just trying to get my name changed."
The policy of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety is based on 2006 voter-passed constitutional amendment that rejects recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions.
Another Sioux Falls lesbian couple, Jessica Dybing and Andrea Jorgensen, married in August, have experienced the same difficulty in their attempts to change their names on the drivers licenses to Dybing-Jorgensen. The ACLU has come to the assistance of both couples and many more like them in Georgia and Virginia, two additional states that have constitutional amendments barring same-sex unions, reported the Argus Leader.
The Department of Public Safety said they will accept marriage licenses as proof of name change for heterosexual couples but not for gay and lesbian couples. The only recourse available to the woman would be a legal change of name by the South Dakota courts.
The Argus Leader reported Cindy Gerber, the state's director of driver's licensing said "If we get a court-ordered name change, we'd have to accept that."
Chris Hupke, the executive director of the South Dakota Family Policy Council, told the Argus Leader, "the ban on same-sex marriage is a reflection of voters' belief in traditional marriage and not a rejection of homosexuals." Hupke added, "the denials are proof that the amendment his group pushed for in 2006 is being taken seriously by state government. Everyone did their job, the system worked."
"The ACLU sees the license denials as evidence that such laws turn homosexuals into second-class citizens and threaten to drive people from the state. If the courts refuse to accept the name-change petition on the grounds that doing so would endorse a same-sex union, lawsuits might follow," said LBGTQ Nation.
“This is an emerging issue for states that have passed these constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage,” said Robert Doody, executive director of the South Dakota ACLU. “They’re being used to deny people really basic rights.”
The report in the Argus Leader says both couple have "filed petitions in the Minnehaha and Union County courts to change their names." The petitions have the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. South Dakota law requires only that a petitioner show "proper and reasonable cause" for the name change but South Dakota law professor and court expert Roger Baron said: "The case turns on whether the judges who evaluate the petitions see them as attempts to validate the marriages."
"This is a powder keg," Baron added.
More about Gay marriage, Lesbian, Drivers license, South Dakota, Same-sex marriage
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