Two Pennsylvania Couples Denied Drivers' License Name Change


Two couples in Pennsylvania are now facing the unfair repercussions of the state’s refusal to recognize the marriages of lesbian and gay couples.

On July 16, the Sentinel News Organization reported the story of Jeannine and Dawn Nally who were turned away from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) when Jeannine attempted to have her last name legally changed on her drivers’ license.  After successfully changing the name on her Social Security and presenting a marriage certificate from New York State to administrators at the PennDOT headquarters in Harrisburg, Jeannine was told that the change could not be made because Pennsylvania does not recognize her marriage. Jeannine could use other documents to change her last name, such as a valid passport or voter registration card, but updating those documents would require the state ID she is currently being denied.

In an unrelated story reported by local Harrisburg ABC-affiliate WHTM on July 26, Jason Herndon was denied a name change after presenting PennDOT with a marriage certificate that he and his partner received from New York as well. Jason has since returned to PennDOT and was issued a name change to his drivers’ license after all.

The issues faced by Jeannine and Jason are all too common for lesbian and gay couples living in states that do not see their marriages as equal. The lack of recognition for Jeannine and Jason’s respective marriages quickly presented serious obstacles. Even though Jason was eventually able to change the name on his drivers’ license, he still wondered why he needed an appointment to do something that was technically legal under Pennsylvania law.

These couples’ stories are another example of the very real effects inequality has on the daily lives of many LGBT families. GLAAD urges the media to report on these stories and others like them. By elevating the fact that lesbian and gay couples often find access to basic needs unnecessarily difficult without the protections of marriage, Americans will have an accurate picture of why equality matters.