You have asked whether an Oregon Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership, created
under the new Oregon Family Fairness Act, constitutes sufficient evidence to support
a name change in SSA's numident data.
No. Name changes are not specifically granted as a routine aspect of a domestic partnership.
However, any adult citizen of Oregon, for any reason, has a statutory right to change
names. A state court order for a name change would support a change in numident name
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE
G. B~ entered into a Domestic Partnership with K. B~ G~. on February 5, 2008. The
partnership was evidenced by a Declaration of Domestic Partnership entered in Jackson
County, Oregon. On March 4, 2008, Ms. B~ submitted an application for a Social Security
card requesting a name change to B~ G~. She also submitted a copy of the Declaration
of Registered Domestic Partnership.
1. Oregon Law of Name Changes
Oregon recognizes marriage, annulment, and divorce as per se bases for an adult to
change his or her name. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 107.105, 109.309, 109.360. To change one's
name for any other reason, an applicant must obtain a court judgment in the probate
or civil court of the county where the applicant is domiciled. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 33.410,
33.420. As an essential element of this process, the applicant must give public notice
of the change to permit challenges. Or. Rev. Stat. § 33.420. The court then enters
a judgment granting or denying the change. There have been almost no recorded cases
challenging the denial of an adult name change. See generally State v. Ford, et al., 172 P. 802 (Or. 1918) (forgery); In re Platzer, 624 P.2d 574 (Or. 1981) (foreign criminal conviction).
2. Oregon's Domestic Partnership Registry
The Oregon legislature enacted House Bill 2007, the Oregon Family Fairness Act (the
Act), to grant same sex couples the same access that married couples have to certain
rights and benefits, such as those associated with hospital visitation, health care
decision-making, organ donation decisions, and other issues related to illness, incapacity,
and death. H.B. 2007-A Sec. 9. The new statute contemplates formation of civil contracts
known as "domestic partnerships," documented by a Declaration of Registered Domestic
Partnership and/or a Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership. H.B. 2007-A Sec.
3, 5, 6.
Pursuant to the Oregon Family Fairness Act, either partner may retain their prior
surname or resume a prior legal name during the domestic partnership partnership.
H.B. 2007-A Sec. 8. The statute does not provide a mechanism for changing the surname.
Individuals in a domestic partnership are granted the same privileges, immunities,
rights, or benefits granted to individuals in marriage. H.B. 2007-A Sec. 9. A party
to a marriage may change his or her surname to the surname of the other party by indicating
on the marriage application, the marriage license, and on the record of marriage the
party's new surname after marriage. Or. Rev. Stat. § 106.220(1). Id. If a party does not indicate the change of name on all three documents prior to filing
the documents with the county clerk, the only way to change the surname is by a court
order. Or. Rev. Stat. § 106.220(2).
A Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership does not have any provision listing
a change of surname that can be completed prior to filing with the county clerk. Further,
the registration of a domestic partnership does not involve an application, a license,
or other record. Thus, while individuals in domestic partnerships are granted all
the same privileges, immunities, rights and benefits as do parties to a marriage,
the Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership does not meet the requirements
for a name change that is required for individuals of a marriage.
Practically, it should be noted that there is a conflict in the manner in which State
agencies and local authorities are interpreting the domestic partnership laws and
its application to name changes. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles will make
a name change to a driver's license record with presentation of a Certificate of Registered
Domestic Partnership. See http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/dv/chgname.shtml. Other local government organizations abide by the law as written, informing their
constituents that registration of a domestic partnership does not, by itself, authorize
a name change, but that a court order is required to do so. See http://www.clackamas.us/recording/domesticfaq/htm.
Registration as a domestic partnership does not create an additional legal right to
a name change based solely on the fact of registration. A Certificate of Registered
Domestic Partnership is not proof of a legal name change. In order to obtain a legal
name change, an adult must obtain a court judgment. This judgment would satisfy SSA's
requirement for changing numident data.
This opinion is not limited solely to this case but has to all those requests for
a name change based on a Certificate of Registered Domestic Partnership in Oregon
under the current law.