TN 7 (03-12)
PR 02705.009 Delaware
A. PR 12-061 Reply to your request for a legal opinion on whether the Social Security Administration (Agency) can accept a Delaware civil-union certificate as evidence for a name change
DATE: January 25, 2012
A civil union certificate issued by the State of Delaware on or after January 1, 2012 is acceptable evidence of a name change.
QUESTION PRESENTED AND BRIEF ANSWER
Question: Same-sex civil unions will become legal in Delaware on January 1, 2012 at 10 a.m. Can the agency accept a Delaware civil-union certificate as evidence for a name change on a Social Security card?
Answer: Yes. The agency may accept a Delaware civil-union certificate issued after 10 a.m. on January 1, 2012, as evidence for a name change. Moreover, the agency may accept a decree of dissolution of a civil union as proof of a name change.
Delaware enacted The Civil Union and Equality Act of 2011 on May 11, 2011. Same-sex civil unions will become legal in Delaware effective at 10 a.m. on January 1, 2012. Under the Act, parties to a civil union
shall have all the same rights, protections and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations and duties of this State, whether derived from statutes, administrative rules or regulations, court rules, governmental policies, common law, court decisions, or any other provision or sources of law, including in equity, as are granted to, enjoyed by or imposed upon married spouses.
Del. Code Ann. tit. 13, § 212(a) (West 2011).
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires the agency to “establish minimum standards for verification of documents or records submitted by an individual to establish eligibility for an original or replacement social security card.” Pub. L. No. 108-458, § 7213(a)(1)(B). To process a name change, the agency must have evidence of three items: (1) a name change event; (2) the new name; and (3) the number holder’s identity as shown on the latest Numident record. POMS RM 10212.015 (Evidence Requirements to Process a Name Change on the SSN); POMS RM 10212.055 (Evidence Required to Process a Name Change on the SNN based on Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership). The agency should accept Delaware civil-union certificates as evidence of a new name because the certificates demonstrate a name-change event and provide evidence of a new name under Delaware law.
A. Civil unions are name-change events.
POMS RM 10212.010 states that, like marriages, civil unions are name-change events.
POMS RM 10212.010 (listing recognized name-change events, including civil unions). Thus, the Delaware civil-union certificate is sufficient evidence of a name-change event.
B. Delaware civil-union certificates are evidence of a new name.
The POMS directs the agency not to process a name change application unless the applicant submits evidence of a legal name change. POMS RM 10212.165. The agency should accept civil-union documents from states that allow civil unions as evidence of a new name so long as (1) the new name can be derived from a name-change document, POMS RM 10212.055(B), and (2) “the civil union document constitutes a legal name change in the State where the civil union was entered.” POMS RM 10212.040 (Evidence of Name Change based on a US Civil Union). Because the Delaware civil-union certificates satisfy both requirements, the agency should accept the Delaware civil-union certificate as evidence of a new name.
1. The agency can derive the applicant’s new name from the Delaware civil-union certificate.
First, the agency can derive the applicant’s new name from the Delaware civil-union certificate. See POMS RM 10212.055(B) (specifying that civil-union documents containing the partner’s last name are sufficient for a last-name change). The Delaware Act requires the civil union certificate to contain particular information, including the parties’ names. Del. Code Ann. tit. 13, § 208(a). Therefore, the agency can derive the new name from the name-change document (the civil union certificate).
2. The civil-union certificate will constitute a legal name change document in Delaware.
Second, the agency should accept the civil-union certificate as evidence of a name change because it constitutes a legal name change document in Delaware. Parties to a civil union are to enjoy all the same rights, benefits, and protections as married persons under Delaware law.
Del. Code Ann. tit. 13, § 212(a). In Delaware, a person can change his or her name with a marriage certificate. See, e.g., State of Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles – Changing Your Name/Address http://www.dmv.de.gov/services/driver_services/other/dr_oth_change.shtml, (last visited Dec. 14, 2011). Because the state of Delaware accepts marriage certificates as evidence for a name change, they will also accept civil union certificates under the Civil Union and Equality Act.
Moreover, under Delaware statutory law, a person seeking a name change under the court procedure must merely provide a petition with his or her name and the name he or she desires to assume. Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, § 5901(a). The court will grant the petition so long as there is “no reason for not granting the petition.” Id. at § 5904. Thus, under the Delaware statute, the civil-union document constitutes a name change. And because the civil-union document constitutes a name change under Delaware law, the agency should accept it as well under POMS RM 10212.040.
In addition, with respect to dissolution, a civil union may be dissolved “in the same form and manner as marriages.” Del. Code Ann. tit. 13, § 216. Under Del. Code Ann. tit. 13, § 1514 (divorce and annulment), “[t]he Court, upon the request of a party by pleading or motion, may order that such party resume a maiden or former name.” Because parties to a divorce or annulment may request that a court restore a former name, parties to a civil union may as well, by operation of the equal rights, protections, and benefits provision of Del. Code Ann. tit. 13, § 212(a). Therefore, the agency should accept a decree of dissolution of a civil union as proof of a name change.
The agency may accept a Delaware civil union certificate as evidence for a name change because a civil union is a name-change event, and the civil-union certificate is evidence of a new name under Delaware law. The agency may also accept a decree of dissolution of a civil union as proof of a name change.
Eric P. Kressman
Regional Chief Counsel, Region III
M. Jared Littman
Assistant Regional Counsel
See POMS RM 10212.015(D) for identity requirements, which are not relevant to this legal opinion.