TN 5 (06-10)

PR 02712.010 District of Columbia

A. PR 10-071 District of Columbia Legislation Legalizing Same-Sex Marriages – INFORMATION

DATE: March 11, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 which went into effect on March 3, 2010 permits same-sex couples to marry in the District of Columbia beginning March 9, 2010. The District of Columbia permits parties to a same-sex marriage to change their names based upon the marriage in the same manner as any other person changing their name by marriage.

Previously registered domestic partnerships need not be dissolved prior to marriage. The new legislation has removed the ability to register a new domestic partnership as of January 1, 2011.

2. OPINION

Questions Presented

We are providing this advice in accordance with the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10212.035, Evidence of a Name Change based on a U.S. Same-Sex Marriage. Section D of RM 10212.035 provides that when a State legalizes same-sex marriages, an opinion from the Regional Chief Counsel should be obtained regarding the following information:

(1) whether the State permits parties to the same-sex marriage to change their names based on the marriage;

(2) the date the State will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex couples;

(3) any change to the status of a prior or new civil union or domestic partnership entered into in the same State; and

(4) whether a prior entered civil union or domestic partnership must be dissolved before entering into a same-sex marriage.

Brief Summary

The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, effective March 3, 2010, permits same-sex couples to marry in the District of Columbia beginning March 9, 2010. The District of Columbia permits parties to a same-sex marriage to change their names based upon the marriage in the same manner as any other person changing their name by marriage. Previously registered domestic partnerships need not be dissolved prior to marriage. Rather, a previously registered domestic partnership would be dissolved by operation of law as of the date of the marriage. However, the new legislation has removed the ability to register a new domestic partnership as of January 1, 2011.

Discussion:

The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 went into effect on March 3, 2010.1 As of that date, the District of Columbia began accepting marriage applications for same-sex couples. By law, three full days must pass between when a marriage application is filed and when a marriage license is issued. D.C. Code Ann. § 46-409 (2010). Therefore, in light of the intervening weekend, the first day a marriage could have taken place under the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act was March 9, 2010.

The District of Columbia permits parties of a same-sex marriage to change their names based on the marriage in the same manner as any other person changing their name due to marriage. Although the District of Columbia has a civil process for a name change in which a party can petition for a court-ordered name change pursuant to D.C. Code Ann. § 16-2501 (2010), these formal procedures are not required for a name change following a marriage. The District of Columbia statutes do not specifically authorize a name change following a marriage by merely using the married name and producing a marriage license when required. Nevertheless, our office has confirmed with Phil L~, the Deputy Director of Family Court, that this procedure is permitted and commonly used in the District of Columbia. Mr. L~ indicated that name changes following a marriage are routinely performed by changing one’s name with the various agencies and then using the new name. Notably, however, for a name change on a District of Columbia driver’s license due to marriage, the Department of Motor Vehicles requires that the party change his or her name with the Social Security Administration first and then provide documentation from SSA (either a new social security card or a printout reflecting the name change) with a certified marriage certificate to perform a name change with the DMV.2 Mr. L~ also confirmed that a party to a same-sex marriage may change his or her name based upon the marriage by usage as has been the practice for parties who marry persons of the opposite sex.

The District of Columbia already had provisions in place to permit the registering of domestic partnerships. Pursuant to the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 (HCBEA), D.C. Code Ann. § 32-702, a same-sex couple could register a domestic partnership that permitted all of the rights and responsibilities provided to spouses under District of Columbia law. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act amended the HCBEA to remove the ability to register a new domestic partnership as of January 1, 2011.

In addition, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act also permits persons in a valid domestic partnership pursuant to the HCBEA to apply for and receive a marriage license without being charged a fee provided that the parties are eligible to marry pursuant to D.C. Code Ann. §§ 46-401, 402, 403. Significantly, the domestic partnership will be dissolved by operation of law as of the date of the marriage stated on the certificate obtained. Therefore, the parties need not dissolve their domestic partnership prior to entering into a same-sex marriage.

Eric P. K~
Regional Chief Counsel
By: ____________
Tara A. C~
Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

The Superior Court of District of Columbia – Family Court—Marriage Bureau website can be located at http://www.dccourts.gov/dccourts/superior/family/marriage.jsp .

[2]

This information can be electronically located at http://dmv.dc.gov/serv/idservices/namechange.shtm.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1502712010
PR 02712.010 - District of Columbia - 06/03/2010
Batch run: 06/03/2010
Rev:06/03/2010