TN 11 (07-11)

PR 02707.005 Arkansas

A. PR 11-117 Arkansas Law - Validity of Name Change Based on Certificate of Domestic Partnership (NH Kenneth B~; SSN ~) – REPLY

DATE: August 23, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

A Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership entered in the State of Arkansas or a Certificate of Holy Union issued to the couple in the domestic partnership are not proof of a legal name change.

2. OPINION

The purpose of this memorandum is to respond to your request for an opinion on the evidence a person must submit to the Social Security Administration (agency) to support a legal name change on a number holder’s Social Security card and Numident record. Specifically, you asked whether a Certificate of Domestic Partnership and other documentation, including a Certificate of Holy Union, are sufficient to support a legal name change on the number holder’s Social Security record. In our opinion, the Certificate of Domestic Partnership and Certificate of Holy Union are insufficient to support a legal name change on the number holder’s Social Security record.

As we understand the facts, Kenneth B~ (number holder) is an Arkansas resident. On March 3, 2010, the City Clerk of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, issued a Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership that registered the number holder and Rodriguez J. S~ as domestic partners, in accordance with City of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Ordinance No. 2052. The Circle of Light, a Eureka Springs chapel that provides wedding services, issued a Certificate of Holy Union, a souvenir document, stating that the number holder and Mr. S~ joined in Holy Union on March 3, 2010. The number holder requested a name change to his Social Security record and in support presented to the agency the Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership and the Certificate of Holy Union. The number holder requested the agency to change his name to Kenneth S- B~, to reflect Mr. S~’s last name.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act 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.” See Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Pub. L. No. 108-458, § 7213(a)(1)(B). The Social Security Act (Act) empowers the agency to make rules and regulations and to establish procedures, not inconsistent with the provisions of the Act, which are necessary to carry out such provisions. 42 U.S.C. § 405(a). Consistent with the Act, the agency’s procedure requires a legal document, as convincing evidence of identity, to change an applicant’s name on the Social Security record. See POMS RM 00203.210A.2. An applicant for a name change must submit documentary evidence that the agency regards as convincing evidence of identity. 20 C.F.R. § 422.107. The document must contain sufficient information that identifies the applicant, such as the applicant’s name, age, date of birth, parents’ names, photograph, or physical description of the individual. 20 C.F.R. § 422.10(c). After the applicant submits evidence that the agency regards as convincing evidence of identity and legal name change, the agency may issue a replacement card bearing the same number and the new name of the applicant. 20 C.F.R. § 422.110(a).

Consistent with 42 U.S.C. § 405(a), the agency has adopted the following procedural guideline: “For a U.S. resident, a legal name change based on a U.S. marriage depends on the laws of the State where the marriage occurred.” POMS RM 00203.210B.1. Agency policy and procedures provide that “domestic partnership documents are acceptable evidence of a name change event for purposes of obtaining a name change on the Social Security card where either: (1) state law specifically allows partners in a domestic partnership to change their names; or (2) under state law, a domestic partnership is essentially equivalent to a marriage.” POMS PR 02707.055 (PR 09-169). Thus, in this case, the agency looks to Arkansas state law to determine whether the number holder has submitted documents to support a legal name change and to issue an original or a replacement Social Security card.

The Arkansas Office of Driver Services accepts, as evidence that a legal name change has occurred, a marriage license, a divorce decree, a court order, or “any other document” that it deems 1 to be satisfactory evidence that the name change is in accordance with state and federal laws. Ark. Code Ann. § 27-16-506(b) (document needed in order to change the name on a driver’s license). Here, the number holder submitted to the agency domestic partnership documents to support a name change on his Social Security record. Arkansas does not recognize and prohibits marriages between persons of the same sex. See Ark. Const. amend. LXXXIII, § 1 (marriage consists only of the union of one man and one woman); Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-208(b) (marriage license not issued to persons of the same sex). Arkansas law specifically states that “no same-sex marriage shall be recognized as entitled to benefits of marriage.” Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-208(a). As such, domestic partnership documents are not comparable to marriage documents, such as a marriage license or divorce decree. Furthermore, Arkansas statutes authorize only the circuit and chancery courts to change the name of a person on proper application and showing of good reason. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-2-101. Neither the Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership nor the Certificate of Holy Union are court orders authorizing a name change. Thus, the domestic partnership documents are neither marriage documents nor court orders authorizing a name change.

We must then determine whether the Arkansas Office of Driver Services deems the Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership or the Certificate of Holy Union to be satisfactory evidence that the name change is in accordance with state and federal laws.

Arkansas acknowledges the existence of domestic partnerships 2 but neither specifically allows partners in a domestic partnership to change their names nor considers domestic partnerships as equivalent to marriage. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-208 (marriage licenses not issued to persons of the same sex). Indeed, the Eureka Springs’ Ordinance Creating a Domestic Partnership Registry states, “[n]nothing in this Chapter shall be construed as recognizing or treating a Registered Domestic Partnership as a marriage.” Eureka Springs, Ark., Ordinance No. 2052. The Ordinance further states that it neither alters, affects, or contravenes state law, or “conveys to Registered Domestic Partners any new or different right, benefit, obligation or entitlement, individually or jointly.” Id. The Ordinance merely recognizes the domestic partnership; it does not grant the partners any rights under state law. We do not believe that the Arkansas Office of Driver Services would deem the domestic partnership documents to be satisfactory evidence that the name change is in accordance with state and federal laws. Therefore, the Certificate of Domestic Partnership and Certificate of Holy Union are insufficient evidence to support a legal name change under Arkansas law.

In summary, Arkansas law does not specifically provide for partners in a domestic partnership to change their names. Under Arkansas law, a domestic partnership is not “essentially equivalent to a marriage.” See Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-208(a) (no same-sex marriage shall be recognized as entitled to benefits of marriage). The Certificate of Domestic Partnership and Certificate of Holy Union are insufficient evidence to support a legal name change under Arkansas law. As such, the agency cannot accept the number holder’s domestic partnership documents as acceptable evidence of a name change on his Social Security record. Thus, the number holder has not presented satisfactory evidence to support his request for a legal name change.

Very Truly Yours

Michael M~

Regional Chief Counsel

By: _________________

Ruben M~

Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

Deem – to consider, think, or judge. Black’s Law Dictionary 425 (7th ed. 1999).

[2]

Arkansas law does not prevent employers from extending benefits to persons who are domestic partners of employees. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-11-208(c).


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1502707005
PR 02707.005 - Arkansas - 10/20/2011
Batch run: 10/20/2011
Rev:10/20/2011