Friday, January 12, 2007

Married names and gender equality

Look that this young couple. Damn, they're cute. And they're suing the state of California, which if you ask me makes them even cuter. He wants to take her name, which seems simple enough. For women getting married, there's little more to it than checking a box. But for marrying men, there's lots of paperwork, a court appearance, and a $300 fee. The SoCal ACLU is on the case.

Legally, it seems like an open-and-shut case: this is nothing more than a reflection of outdated gender norms, with no permissible purpose. While grooms might take advantage of a change in the law, equal treatment here is a no-brainer. But I will be watching this case with interest, for a number of reasons. I'm curious to see:
  • What arguments (if any) California makes in defense of different treatment;
  • Whether social conservative groups take interest or get involved, and what they will say;
  • Whether the case will spark much public discussion;
  • Any crossover with discussion of the pending CA same-sex marriage case; and,
  • Whether any legal or legislative action will follow in the 43 states with similar laws.

As an aside, it has never ceased to amaze me just how many women still swap their own name for their husband's. This is not to criticize the practice per se -- after all, it's a deeply personal matter, and a complicated one. I suppose what baffles me is how automatic it still is, as if there were no serious alternatives. Which in turn makes me wonder whether the Bijons (above) are getting a hard time, or pats on the back, from their families and friends.


Todd form Philadelphia said...

Wow. Good for them! When my wife and I got married in PA, we both decided to both change our names to my maternal line. The reasons are that interesting, but the process was very interesting. Between court appearances, fees, record searches, and newspaper announcements, it cost us over $1200 to change my name, and we were not able to make it official for me until after the wedding. My wife, on the other hand, was able the change her name to my mother's maiden name on the wedding certificate. She took my name 3 months before I even had it! We asked about this at the court house, the clerk shrugged, and told my wife " you can change it ti anything you want."

Hopefully California will come to it's senses quickly.

tonya said...

Wow -- thanks for making me aware of this; I'll definitely be watching the legal developments with interest as well! (or reading your blog for them!)