TN 32 (12-14)

PR 02712.056 Wyoming

A. PR 15-031 Wyoming Same-Sex Marriage – Name Change Guidance

DATE: November 18, 2014

1. SYLLABUS

Accept marriage documents issued to same-sex couples for marriages that took place on October 21, 2014 or later by jurisdictions (town, county or State) in the State of Wyoming as evidence of a name change.

2. OPINION

 QUESTION PRESENTED

Wyoming began issuing same-sex marriage licenses beginning October 21, 2014. Should SSA accept marriage documents issued to same-sex couples in Wyoming as evidence of a name-change event?

SHORT ANSWER

Yes. SSA should accept marriage documents issued to same-sex couples in Wyoming on October 21, 2014, and thereafter, as evidence of a name-change event.

BACKGROUND

On June 25 and July 18, 2014, respectively, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed district court decisions finding that Utah’s and Oklahoma’s bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. See Kitchen v. Herbert, 755 F.3d 1193 (10th Cir. 2014) (Utah); Bishop v. United States, 760 F.3d 1070 (10th Cir. 2014) (Oklahoma). The court imposed stays in both cases pending appeal. On October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear either appeal, letting stand the Tenth Circuit’s decisions that Utah’s and Oklahoma’s bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Based in large part on these developments, on October 17, 2014, the Wyoming District Court held that Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. See Guzzo v. Mead, 2014 WL 5317797 (D. Wyo. Oct. 17, 2014). The court imposed a stay pending appeal. However, on October 21, 2014, the State notified the court that it would not appeal, allowing clerks to begin issuing samesex marriage licenses that same day.

DISCUSSION

For SSA to process a name change, the applicant must submit evidence of: (1) a name-change event; (2) the new name; and (3) the number holder’s identity as shown on the latest Numident record. See POMS RM 10212.015. This opinion focuses only on the first evidentiary requirement: the name change event. The POMS recognizes that marriages are name-change events. See POMS RM 10212.010. Moreover, SSA policy requires SSA to “[a]ccept same-sex marriage documents validly issued by a U.S. state, which permits ceremonial same-sex marriage as evidence of a name change.” POMS RM 10212.035.

Pursuant to section D of POMS RM 10212.035, when a state legalizes same-sex marriage, the Regional Office should obtain a legal opinion from the Regional Chief Counsel requesting the following information, which we discuss below:

  1. the date the State will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex couples;

  2. any change to the status of prior or new civil union or domestic partnership entered into in the same State; and

  3. whether the State permits parties to the same-sex marriage to change their names based on the marriage;

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

  1. The date the State will begin issuing marriage licenses and certificates to same-sex couples.

    Wyoming began allowing same-sex marriage licenses to be issued on October 21, 2014. SSA should treat documents reflecting same-sex marriages that occurred in Wyoming on October 21, 2014, and thereafter, as valid for purposes of establishing a name-change event.

  2. Whether the State permits parties to the same-sex marriage to change their names based on the marriage.

    Wyoming permits parties to change their names based on marriage. In general, Wyoming allows an individual to change his or her name as long as the individual follows residency requirements and the name change is “not detrimental to the interests of any other person.” See Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-25-101. With regard to whether marriage documents support a request for a name change, the Wyoming marriage statutes do not expressly address this issue. See Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 20-1-101, et. al. However, Wyoming does accept marriage certificates as proof of a name change for the purpose of changing the name on an individual’s driver’s license. 1 See Wyoming Rules and Regulations, Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicles and Licensing, ch. 1 § 5(a), available in Westlaw by searching WY ADC TRAN MVL Ch. 1 s 5; Wyoming Dep’t of Trans., Real ID Document Requirements, Proof of Name Change, available at http://www.dot.state.wy.us/files/live/sites/wydot/files/shared/Driver_Services/Help%20Documents%20and%20Manuals/REAL%20ID%20DOCUMENT%20REQUIRMENTS%20092413.pdf (last visited October 24, 2014); see also generally, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-7-111. These rules do not