TN 15 (11-17)
PR 02706.048 Texas
A. PR 18-010 Mexico Same-Sex Marriage Certificate for Name Change
Date: October 19, 2017
On December 17, 2015, the Mexican State Congress of Nayarit passed Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage effective December 23, 2015. Marriage documents validly issued and executed by Mexico’s State of Nayarit Civil Registry to same-sex couples for marriages taking place on December 23, 2015 or later in the Mexican State of Nayarit are acceptable evidence of a name change.
You asked whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) can rely on a Mexican Certificate of Marriage showing a same-sex marriage between the number holder J~ (NH) and J2~ in the State of Nayarit, Mexico on March XX, 2017, as an acceptable legal name change document evidencing a valid foreign same-sex marriage for purposes of changing the NH’s last name on his Social Security Number (SSN) record.
Yes. The NH’s March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage is presumed valid under the laws of the State of Nayarit, which legalized same-sex marriage effective December 23, 2015. Therefore, for purposes of the NH’s name change request, this foreign same-sex marriage document is acceptable evidence of a legal name change event under SSA’s law and policy. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10212.010, RM 10212.050.
According to the information provided, the NH, a U.S. citizen and resident of Texas, reported to an SSA district office requesting a name change to his SSN record to the surname of A~. The NH requested the name change based on his purported marriage to J2~.
In support of the requested name change, the NH provided SSA with a Mexican Certificate of Marriage issued and executed by the Civil Registry of the State of Nayarit, Mexico indicating that he entered into a marriage with J2~ on March XX, 2017 in the district of S~, located in the municipality of B~, State of Nayarit, Mexico. In addition to stating the date and place of marriage, the Certificate of Marriage provided by the NH contains the personal information (name, age, place of birth, nationality, and occupation) of the persons who married and the names of their respective parents, and it indicates that the couple married under the rules of separate ownership (régimen matrimonial de separación de bienes). The Certificate of Marriage also contains the signature of a Civil Registry official, the Civil Registry’s official seal, and the coat of arms of Mexico and the State of Nayarit.
A. Federal Law and Agency Policy: Name Changes under the Social Security Act (Act)
For SSA enumeration purposes, a legal name consists of a first name and a last name. See POMS RM 10212.001(A). In general, the legal name of a person born in the United States (U.S.) is the name shown on his or her U.S. birth certificate unless the person’s name has changed based on certain events, such as a marriage. See POMS RM 10212.001(B)(1).
When a number holder applies for a replacement SSN card to reflect a name change, SSA must determine whether the name change request is valid pursuant to federal law and agency policy. SSA amended its regulations and policy to be more restrictive in its requirements for changes to the SSN record due to the agency’s efforts to comply with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). Pub. L. 108-458; see also POMS RM 10210.001 (explaining the history of the strengthening of SSN evidence requirements in response to misuse of the SSN and related fraud); SSA EM-06064 (effective Oct. 2, 2006, archived April 13, 2010) (outlining new policy for name changes based on marriage and setting out three evidence requirements for a name change). The IRTPA required the agency to “establish minimum standards for the verification of documents or records submitted by an individual to establish eligibility for an original or replacement social security card, other than for purposes of enumeration at birth.” Pub. L. 108-458, § 7213(a)(1)(B). “The integrity of the SSN is a matter of great importance to Social Security.” POMS RM 10210.200. “SSA is strongly committed to strengthening and improving the integrity of the enumeration process.” POMS RM 10210.205. Accordingly, Social Security law and policy provide specific evidentiary requirements for a name change to an individual’s SSN record.
An applicant requesting a name change to the SSN record must submit documentary evidence that SSA regards as convincing evidence of the applicant’s identity and must submit evidence verifying a legal name change. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 422.103(e)(2), 422.107(a), (c), 422.110(a). SSA’s POMS more specifically instruct that an individual who is seeking to change his or her name on the SSN record must show evidence of:
A name change event that complies with the agency’s evidence requirements detailed for each event in RM 10212.010;
The number holder’s identity; and
The new name.
See POMS RM 10212.015.
The present request focuses on the first element, as you specifically asked whether the foreign same-sex marriage document (the Mexican Certificate of Marriage) provided by the NH is sufficient evidence of a name change event. We turn next to SSA’s policy regarding acceptable name change events. See POMS RM 10212.010.
B. Agency Policy: Evidence of a Name Change Based on a Foreign Same-Sex Marriage
SSA’s POMS at RM 10212.010 sets forth an exclusive list of name change events for purposes of changing the legal name on the SSN record. Of relevance here, a foreign marriage or foreign recognized same-sex marriage is listed as an acceptable name change event to support a name change on the SSN record. See POMS RM 10212.010, RM 10212.050. The POMS instructs that SSA is to “[a]ccept a foreign marriage document involving a same-sex couple issued by a foreign government that permits same-sex marriages” as evidence of a legal name change. POMS RM 10212.050(B).
Here, the NH has presented SSA with a marriage certificate issued by the State of Nayarit, Mexico. SSA’s POMS provides a list of foreign countries and the date that same-sex marriage was permitted in such countries, but has not yet addressed same-sex marriage in the State of Nayarit, Mexico. See POMS RM 10212.050(B) (“We recognize that other jurisdictions permitting same-sex marriage may exist and that the chart is not intended to be exhaustive.”). The POMS instructs that “[i]f a foreign same-sex marriage document from a foreign country or jurisdiction is not listed in the chart above, the RO should request a legal opinion from the Regional Chief Counsel on whether the foreign same-sex marriage document is acceptable evidence for a name change. The RCC opinion should provide the date the foreign country or jurisdiction began permitting same-sex marriages for a name change.” Id. Thus, we turn to the State of Nayarit’s laws on same-sex marriage and sufficient evidence of marriage to determine whether the marriage is proper and if so, whether the certificate comports with Nayarit’s laws for establishing a valid marriage between the NH and J2~.
C. Foreign Law: Valid Same-Sex Marriage Under State of Nayarit, Mexico’s Law
1. State of Nayarit, Mexico’s Law: Same-Sex Marriage Was Legalized December 23, 2015
Nayarit is a state in Mexico headed by a governor and unicameral legislature. A decree promulgated in December 2015 amended the Civil Code of Nayarit, making same-sex marriage legal in the State of Nayarit. Article 135 of the Code, as amended, states as follows: “Marriage is civil contract by which two people unite in a social relationship to achieve life in common, seeking between both respect, equality, and mutual aid.” The amending Decree making same-sex marriage legal was published in Nayarit’s official gazette on December 22, 2015. The amending Decree came into force the following day, December 23, 2015. The Decree also amended a number of articles of the Code related to domestic relations, replacing the previous terms of “man and woman” with the term “persons” and substituting the terms “husband and wife” with the term “spouses”. Thus, effective December 23, 2015, same-sex marriage is legal in the State of Nayarit, Mexico.
2. State of Nayarit Law on Establishing a Valid Marriage and Marriage Registration
The State of Nayarit’s regulations on marriage registration are contained in its Civil Code. The Civil Code of Nayarit provides that the civil status of individuals may only be proved by certifications issued by the State of Nayarit’s Civil Registry. No other document or evidence is admissible to prove the civil status of people, except those cases expressly stated in the law. The Civil Code of Nayarit also grants the records of the Civil Registry a legal presumption of validity unless those records are successfully challenged in court.
Similarly, a provision of the State of Nayarit’s Code of Civil Procedure grants a legal presumption of authenticity to public documents, defined as those documents whose creation is entrusted by the law to public servants covered with legal authority and those issued by public servants in the exercise of their functions—for instance, the certificates of the Civil Registry.
3. The NH’s Mexican Marriage Certificate is Evidence of a Valid Marriage
As discussed above, SSA accepts foreign recognized same-sex marriages as the basis for a name change. See POMS RM 10212.010. Additionally, for name change requests to the SSN record, SSA will accept foreign marriage documents involving same-sex couples issued by a foreign government that permits same-sex marriages. See POMS 10212.050(B). As established, the State of Nayarit began permitting same-sex marriages in December 2015. Thus, the pertinent remaining question is whether the March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage provided by the NH comports with the State of Nayarit’s laws for marriage registration and establishing a valid marriage.
The Certificate of Marriage was issued March XX, 2017, and identifies the bride and groom as J2~ and J~. The Certificate of Marriage was issued and executed by the State of Nayarit’s Civil Registry, and it specifically includes the signature of an official of the Civil Registry as well as the Civil Registry’s official seal. As discussed above, under Nayarit law, the civil status of people is proved solely by such certifications issued by the Civil Registry. In addition, both the Civil Code of Nayarit and the State of Nayarit’s Code of Civil Procedure grant a legal presumption of validity/authenticity to public documents, including certificates of the Civil Registry such as the NH’s Certificate of Marriage.
Thus, the NH’s March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage is presumed valid under the laws of the State of Nayarit and therefore, we believe that the agency may find that it is acceptable as a name change document evidencing a legal name change event under SSA’s law and policy.
The NH’s March 2017 Mexican Certificate of Marriage is valid under the laws of the State of Nayarit, Mexico, which legalized same-sex marriage effective December 23, 2015. Thus, for purposes of the NH’s name change request, this foreign same-sex marriage document is an acceptable name change document evidencing a legal name change event under SSA’s law and policy for name changes to the SSN record.