TN 11 (01-13)
PR 02712.022 Maine
A. PR 13-038 Opinion on the Acceptability of Maine Same-Sex Marriage Documents for the Purposes of Enumeration Name Changes
DATE: January 4, 2013
Accept marriage documents issued to same-sex couples for marriages that took place December 29, 2012 or later by jurisdictions (town, county or State) in Maine as evidence of a name change.
This memorandum is in response to your request for an opinion as to whether a Maine marriage certificate from a same-sex marriage may be used as proof of a name change. In accordance with RM 10212.035D, we have also researched the following:
whether Maine will permit parties to the same-sex marriage to change their names based on the marriage;
the date the State will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex couples;
any change to the status of prior or new civil unions or domestic partnerships entered into in Maine; and
whether a prior entered civil union or domestic partnership must be dissolved before entering a same-sex marriage.
As explained below, a Maine marriage certificate from a same-sex marriage may be used as proof of a legal name change in Maine. Maine began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on December 29, 2012. There is no mandatory waiting period in Maine from the time the marriage license is issued to the time the marriage is solemnized; therefore, Maine may begin recording valid same-sex marriage certificates as of December 29, 2012. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 19-A, § 654, as amended, St. 2001, c. 574, § 3. Maine does not recognize civil unions, but does recognize domestic partnerships. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 22, § 2710, enacted St. 2003, c. 672, § 17. The new law permitting same-sex marriage has no effect on the status of domestic partnerships entered into in Maine; however, a same-sex couple’s prior registered domestic partnership would dissolve automatically if the couple were to marry. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 18-A, § 1-201, sub-§ 10A; tit. 22, § 2710(2), (4); 2012 Me. Legis. Serv. Ch. 1 (I.B. 3) (L.D. 1860).
Maine began issuing same-sex marriage certificates on December 29, 2012.
On November 6, 2012, pursuant to provisions in Maine’s Constitution permitting direct ballot initiatives, Maine residents voted to allow the State to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. See Maine Const., Art. IV, Pt. Third, §§ 18-19; 2012 Me. Legis. Serv. Ch. 1 (I.B. 3) (L.D. 1860) (WEST). The ballot measure extends to same-sex couples all of the legal benefits of marriage. 2012 Me. Legis. Serv. Ch. 1 (I.B. 3) (L.D. 1860) (WEST). Governor Paul LePage signed off on the certified results of the popular vote on November 29, 2012. Maine began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples thirty days later, on December 29, 2012. See Maine Const., Art. IV, Pt. Third, § 19 (stating that the measure approved by popular vote shall become law thirty days after the Governor has made public proclamation of the result of the vote).
Parties to same-sex marriages in Maine are free to change their names upon marriage, and a Maine same-sex marriage certificate may be used as proof of name change.
According to State Attorney General Opinions, Maine permits any individual who wishes to change his or her name upon marriage to do so without resort to additional legal proceedings. See Marion P~, 1978 WL 33940, at *1 (Me. A.G.); accord George N. W~, 1980 WL 119378, at *1 (Me. A.G.). This is an exception to Maine’s general statutory requirement that all name changes be approved by the probate court. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 18-A, § 1-701; In re R~, 342 A.2d 688, 693-95 (Me. 1975).
Because “no court order is necessary when any person’s surname changes at marriage,” W~, 1980 WL 119378, at *1, a valid marriage certificate may serve as proof of a legal name change. In fact, Maine accepts a marriage certificate or divorce decree as legal documentation of a name change in a variety of contexts. Although Maine’s regulations and government Web sites sometimes use the terms “marriage license” and “marriage certificate” interchangeably, we may infer that only the latter provides satisfactory proof of a name change. See Code Me. R. 10-146, c. 6, § 1 (defining “marriage license” as the document authorizing the named parties to marry, and “marriage certificate” as “the duly completed and signed license following solemnization of marriage”). Indeed, the State Attorney General Opinions recognizing Maine’s exception to the statutory name-change procedure refer specifically to surname changes that occur “at” or “upon” marriage, which indicates that solemnization of the marriage is required before a name change indicated on a marriage license will be given any legal effect. See W~, 1980 WL 119378, at *1; P~, 1978 WL 33940, at *1.
Prior registered domestic partnerships in Maine will not be affected by the new law.
As noted above, Maine does not recognize civil unions, but does recognize registered domestic partnerships that have been duly registered with the State Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 22, § 2710, enacted St. 2003, c. 672, § 17. Nothing in Maine’s new law permitting same-sex marriage purports to convert prior domestic partnerships into marriages, or otherwise affect in any way the status of existing or new domestic partnerships. See 2012 Me. Legis. Serv. Ch. 1 (I.B. 3) (L.D. 1860) (WEST).
By its terms, Maine’s domestic partnership law does not apply to married couples. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 18-A, § 1-201, sub-§ 10-A (“‘Domestic partner’ means one of 2 unmarried adults who are domiciled together . . .”), tit. 22, § 2710(2) (“Domestic partners may become registered domestic partners if . . . C. Neither domestic partner is married . . .”). Under statute, a registered domestic partnership in Maine terminates upon the marriage of either registered domestic partner. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 22, § 2710(4). Consequently, if a same-sex couple previously registered as domestic partners in Maine were to marry under the new law, their partnership would cease to exist. Therefore, a party seeking to change his or her name based on a same-sex marriage may not offer a prior Declaration of Domestic Partnership as a substitute for a marriage certificate.
Based on the above analysis, we conclude that Maine same-sex marriage certificates are acceptable as proof of a name change. Maine began recognizing such certificates on December 29, 2012. The new law permitting same-sex marriage does not affect prior or new domestic partnerships entered into in Maine, and a same-sex couple’s prior registered domestic partnership terminates automatically upon marriage.
See http://www.maine.gov/revenue/publications/alerts/2012/TADecember2012_Vol22_Iss11.html (visited Jan. 4, 2013); http://www.nytimes.com~ (visited Jan. 4, 2013).
Once the marriage license is signed by an officiant and two other witnesses, it becomes the official marriage certificate, which is then recorded with the municipal clerk who issued the license. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 19-A, §§ 654, 656(2). The clerk and State Registrar of Vital Statistics each retain a copy of the marriage certificate. Me. Rev. Stat. Ann., tit. 19-A, §§ 654(2).
See http://www.maine.gov/revenue/publications/alerts/2012/TADecember2012_Vol22_Iss11.html (visited Jan. 4, 2013); see also http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2012/12/07/portland-license-same-sex-marriages-wee-hours-dec/144840 (visited Jan. 4, 2013).
See Code Me. R. 29-250, c. 700, § 4 (concerning proof of name changes for Notaries Public); see also http://mebaroverseers.org (State Board of Bar Overseers) (visited Jan. 4, 2013); http://www.maine.gov/treasurer/unclaimed_property/claim/claims_faq.shtml (State Treasurer) (visited Jan. 4, 2013).