A Florida man Lazaro Sopena, wanted to help his new wife carry on her Vietnamese surname, and so decided to change his last name to Dinh when they were married in honor of his wife–opposite the usual custom of women adopting their husbands’ surnames.
After their marriage, he presented his marriage license to his local DMV showing that he had a new last name in effort to obtain an updated driver’s license, just as a woman would. The agency granted his request and issued a new license without any complications.
A year later, he received a letter of suspension from the Florida DMV, stating that he had fraudulently obtained his new driver’s license and that he would no longer be able to legally drive. When he called to explain how he adopted his spouse’s surname, he was told: “That only works for women.”
A DMV hearing was set at which he presented his passport and marriage license showing his new name. Surprisingly, the DMV did not flinch and upheld the suspension. As time passed and the issue began to receive widespread attention, the DMV finally reversed its stance, admitting that a mistake had been made and that either a man or a woman is legally allowed to change a last name because of marriage. As to why the issue was not resolved sooner, a DMV representative said, “We are doing some training to make sure [they] understand that it can be done either way.”
Lazaro Dinh’s DMV suspension was recently lifted and he was granted the license showing his new surname.
Spencer Kuvin, Dinh’s attorney mentioned that the issue raises valid questions of how this and other situations, such as gay marriage, might affect a man’s abilitiy to change his last name. This is especially true in other states, where spousal name changes are not gender-neutral. There are currently only nine states which specifically allow a man to change his last name due to marriage.
If you or a loved one are arrested for a crime in Orange County, call Irvine criminal lawyer Staycie R. Sena for a free consultation at (949) 477-8088.