We are providing this opinion in accordance with Program Operations Manual System
(POMS) RM 10212.035, Evidence of a Name Change based on a U.S. Same-Sex Marriage. Section D of POMS RM 10212.035 provides that when a State legalizes same-sex marriages, the Regional Chief Counsel
should provide an opinion 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
(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.
Florida began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on January 5, 2015, and
it appears an individual may change his/her name based on a same-sex marriage. Therefore,
the Social Security Administration (SSA) may accept marriage documents issued by Florida
for same-sex marriages that took place on or after January 5, 2015, as evidence for
a name change. Florida does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships. Although several
Florida municipalities and counties do recognize domestic partnerships, most of these
domestic partnerships automatically terminate if one partner to the partnership marries.
SSA updated POMS GN 00210.003(A) to reflect that Florida currently permits and recognizes same-sex marriages as
of January 5, 2015.
Under Social Security regulations, a number holder may ask SSA to change his records,
including his name. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 401.65, 422.110 (2015). The number holder must present convincing documentary evidence to justify a change
in his records. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 422.107, 422.110(a). For SSA to process a name change, the number holder
must provide evidence of the name change event, a new name, and the number holder’s
identity on the latest Numident record. See 20 C.F.R. § 422.107(a), (c); POMS RM 10210.015(A); POMS RM 10212.015(A). SSA recognizes a number of events as basis for a name change, including a U.S.
ceremonial or common law marriage. See POMS RM 10212.010.
SSA accepts all marriage documents issued by a State as evidence for name change based
on ceremonial marriage. See POMS RM 10212.025. SSA also will accept a name-change document based on marriage as evidence for the
new last name for the Numident if SSA can derive the new name from the document. See POMS RM 10212.055(B). A marriage document is the means by which the official records custodian documents
a marriage record. See POMS RM 10212.025. A marriage record is the original marriage record kept by the official custodian.
See id. Marriage certificates, souvenir certificates, and certified copies of marriage records
are marriage documents and acceptable evidence for a name change. See id. In determining whether the document submitted is acceptable for a name change, SSA
generally follows State statutes. See POMS RM 10212.015(B).
Florida previously denied recognition to same-sex marriages due to statutory and State
Constitutional provisions, but began recognizing same-sex marriages on January 5,
2015. See POMS GN
00210.003(A); POMS PR 05825.011. Additionally, on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that same-sex couples
may exercise the fundamental right to marry under the United States Constitution.
See Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ---, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2604-05 (2015). The Court held State laws invalid
to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms
and conditions as opposite-sex couples. Id. 135 S. Ct. at 2605. The Court also reasoned that having required all States to marry
same-sex couples, “[i]t follows that the Court also must hold -- and it now does hold
-- that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex
marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.” Id. at 2607-08.
1) Whether the State permits parties to the same-sex marriage to change their names
based on marriage.
Florida law permits name changes based on marriage or “other legal process.” Fla.
Stat. Ann. § 101.045(2)(c). Florida also has a civil process for a name change in
which a party can petition for a court-ordered name change. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 68.07 (Change of name); Fla. Fam. L.R.P. Form 12.982(a) (Petition
for Change of Name (Adult)); Fla. Fam. L.R.P. Form 12.982(f) (Petition for Change
of Name (Family)). The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV)
allows a name change to a driver’s license with an original or certified copy of a
marriage certificate from a government agency as proof of legal name change by marriage. See Driver License, http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/namechange.html (last visited July 29, 2015); Gather Go Get Checklist for Name Change, http://www.gathergoget.com/checklist/checklist.aspx (last visited July 29, 2015). The Florida DMV makes no distinction between same-sex
and opposite-sex marriage certificates. At least one Florida County tax collector’s
office accepts same-sex marriage documents to update Florida driver’s licenses with
name changes. See Orange County: Same-sex marriage certificates accepted for ID changes, http://www.wesh.com/news/orange-county-samesex-marriage-certificates-accepted-for-id-changes/30498220 (last visited July 29, 2015).
2) The date the State will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex
Florida began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on January 5, 2015. See Pareto v. Ruvin, Defendant Harvey Ruvin’s Motion for Clarification and Motion to Expedite, No. 14-1661
CA 24 (filed Dec. 22, 2014); id., Order on Defendant Harvey Ruvin’s Motion for Clarification and Motion to Expedite
(issued Jan. 5, 2015) (authorizing the Miami-Dade Clerk of the Court to issue marriage
licenses to prospective spouses of the same gender).
3) Whether there is any change in the status of a prior or new civil union or domestic
partnership entered into in Florida.
Although some municipalities in Florida offer benefits to domestic partners, Florida law does not recognize civil unions, same-sex or otherwise. See Fla. Const. art I, § 27; Fla. Stat. Ann. § 741.212(stating previously that “relationships
between persons of the same sex” are not recognized in Florida) (held unconstitutional
by Brenner v. Scott, 999 F. Supp. 2d 1278, 1290 (N.D. Fla. 2014)). It is unclear at this time what effect
recognition of same-sex marriages will have on prior or new domestic partnerships
entered into in Florida municipalities and counties that recognize such arrangements.
4) Whether a prior entered civil union or domestic partnership must be dissolved before
entering into a same-sex marriage.
As noted above, Florida law does not provide for civil unions or domestic partnerships.
POMS PR 02707.011 (PR 15-012, Oct. 22, 2014) explains that a domestic partnership in Florida is not
acceptable evidence to support a name change. We could not find any law providing
that prior civil unions or domestic partnerships must be dissolved before entering
into a marriage (same-sex or otherwise). However, all of the ordinances that we reviewed from municipalities and counties
that provide for domestic partnership provide that the non-marital partnership automatically
terminates when one partner marries. See, e.g., Broward County, Fla., part II, ch. 16 ½, art. VIII § 16 ½-154(b); Gainesville, Fla.,
part II, ch. 2, art. VIII § 2-611(c)(3)(a); Miami Dade County, Fla., part III, ch.
11A, art. IX, § 11A-73(b); Palm Beach County Ordinance No. 2006-002, § 5(d); Pensacola,
Fl., part II, title V, ch. 5-3, § 5-3-3(b)(1); Pinellas County, Fla., part II, ch.
70, art. III, § 70-238(c)(1); Orlando, Fla., title I, ch. 57, art. VI, § 57-82(b)(1);
Sarasota, Fla., part I, ch. 18, art. VIII, § 18-54(b)(1); Sarasota County, Fla., part
II, ch. 62, art. XII, § 62-338(d).
Based on the above legal authority, Florida permits same-sex marriages as of January
5, 2015. Thus, SSA may accept marriage documents issued by Florida for same-sex marriages
that took place on or after January 5, 2015, as evidence for a name change.
Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel