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Florida man accused of fraud after name change in 'act of love'

9:54 am - 01/29/2013
A newly married South Florida man who opted to take his wife's last name is fighting the state's Department of Motor Vehicles after it suspended his driving license on grounds of fraud.

Real estate investor Lazaro Sopena offered to change his name following his 2011 marriage to Hanh Dinh in order to help his wife's Vietnamese family perpetuate their family surname.

Shortly after their marriage, Lazaro Dinh obtained a new passport and Social Security card and changed his bank account and credit cards before applying to update his drivers license.

"It was an act of love. I have no particular emotional ties to my last name," said Dinh, 40, who was born in Cuba and came to the United States at the age of 11 in 1984.

His wife, Hanh Dinh, 32, has four sisters and came to the U.S. in 1990, after a family odyssey involving living in refugee camps and being separated from her father for 7 years.

Lazaro Dinh was initially issued a new license after presenting his marriage certificate at his local DMV office and paying a $20 fee, just as newly married women are required to do when they adopt their husband's name.

"It was easy. When the government issues you a new passport you figure you're fine," he said.

More than a year later Dinh received a letter from Florida's DMV last December accusing him of "obtaining a driving license by fraud," and advising him that his license would be suspended at the end of the month. Ironically, it was addressed to Lazaro Dinh.

"I thought it was a mistake," he said.

But when he called the state DMV office in Tallahassee he said he was told he had to go to court first in order to change his name legally, a process that takes several months and has a $400 filing fee. When he explained he was changing his name due to marriage, he was told 'that only works for women'".

"Apparently the state of Florida clings to the out-dated notion that treats women as an extension of a man," said Lazaro's lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, with Cohen & Kuvin in West Palm Beach. While it was unusual for a man to seek to be considered an extension on his wife, Dinh's case raised important issues for gay marriage, he noted.

"If Lazaro isn't allowed to change his name, what is going to happen when a gay couple seeks a name change?"

Only a few states have made their marriage name change policy gender neutral, Kuvin said. In Florida's case it has no law, although the DMV's website does not specify gender.

According to Kuvin, 9 states enable a man to change his name upon marriage: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota.

The Florida DMV did not respond to a request for comment.

Following a DMV hearing, Dinh was issued a Final Order on January 14 confirming that his license had been properly suspended for fraud.

He is now appealing that order but has not dared get behind the wheel.

"I don't understand. I'm being treated like a highway criminal," said Dinh, who said he has a perfect driving record and now is struggling to carry out his job, begging his wife and friends for rides.

source here
ayashi 29th-Jan-2013 06:45 pm (UTC)
Wow, I didn't realize that only 9 states allow a man to change their name upon marriage. I thought that it was allowed for whoever if they wanted to do it, just that most don't. But I suppose I also have only lived in two of the states that allow men to change their last names. :-/
ahria 29th-Jan-2013 06:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah I was really surprised too. I got married in IA so I guess I just thought it was like that everywhere.
tabaqui 29th-Jan-2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
Well, that's incredibly stupid. Sheesh. Hope his appeal is successful.
d00ditsemily 29th-Jan-2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
looks like FL dropped the allegations as soon as media caught wind of it

yesthatnagia 29th-Jan-2013 06:52 pm (UTC)
This is so much bullshit. I thought this nation was beyond such... ridiculous, patriarchal notions that women must change their names upon marriage or that only women should.

Also: if he was able to get a new passport and social security card, that should trump his Driver's License, shouldn't it? What the hell?

Edited at 2013-01-29 06:54 pm (UTC)
suwiel 29th-Jan-2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
I also had no idea it was such a pain for a man to take his wife's name in most states! This is so asinine. I hope everything works out well for the Dinhs.
randomcheeses 29th-Jan-2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
Why is act of love in quotation marks? It bugs me.
justspaz 29th-Jan-2013 07:14 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing the title is quoting Mr. Dinh. In the article itself it says: "It was an act of love. I have no particular emotional ties to my last name," said Dinh, 40
belleweather 29th-Jan-2013 07:13 pm (UTC)
This poor guy. My husband and I went through something similar -- we both wanted to change our names when we got married, but the state only allowed ME to change my name to exactly his name, no additions or exceptions (like if I wanted to take my last as a middle, or something...)

So, we tried to do a legal name change. But we were grad students and moving and starting school so based on various laws we ended up being not legal residents of any of the four states. Eventually, we did what this dude did and changed our names sort of semi-officially by just changing them on our licenses and social security cards.

But then, REAL ID happened. Suddenly we didn't have the right set of identification documents to actually officially exist in either of our names -- birth certificate and passports ('cause we were po') in our birth names, SSNs and driver's licenses in our new names. We put off a court name change because we were still po' (and they run round about $500 in our state) until I ended up getting hired by the feds for a job and needed my ID to be correct like, right then. I ended up maxxing out a credit card and literally throwing myself on the mercy of the court to get it done in time (Thank You, Hennipen Co. Clerk of Court, you're still my favorite ever!!), which they did, but the Judge was rolling her eyes at the crazy bureaucracy during the whole proceeding, as we were telling her "Yeah, we've been existing in these names for 8 years now, we have three kids that carry our last name and now suddenly we're stuck with no ID and need heeeeeeeeelp!"

So yeah. Name changes. Should be easy, quick, and painless for anyone, regardless of Gender. And if they're not, maybe compensation for pain and suffering?
primeling 29th-Jan-2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
It should be easy and simple. A lot of people want to change their name for marriage, religious rites, or just because they hate their name. I have hated my name all my life and I just can't get it changed because the process is too crazy.
mephisto5 29th-Jan-2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
This is so fucking weird- it's their name, what business has the state saying they can't change it?

Here (UK) you don't technically need any documentation to change your name, you just start using it and it's your name; however, for ease of getting paperwork sorted, most people write/buy deed polls, which run at about £30 for ten copies and need to be signed by a witness. You can buy them online and they get delivered to your door. It's incredibly easy.
primeling 29th-Jan-2013 07:39 pm (UTC)
Here in the US it is a nightmare. :(
fauxparadiso 29th-Jan-2013 07:39 pm (UTC)
Well this sounds petition-worthy tbh.
dasvedanyaanya 29th-Jan-2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
Was he able to change his social with no problems? When my sister changed her name after she got married she had to change her name on her social first and bring that to the DMV not just the marriage liscense. If his name matched the one on his social idg why there would be any problems. I've never been married though and don't know how this works. That's BS that only 9 states allow that though.
carmy_w 30th-Jan-2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
I had to take my marriage certificate in with me to get my DL changed in Texas. I...don't recall if I had to have my new SS card or not. I don't think I did.

I do recall that all I had to do for that new SS card was send in my marriage certificate along with a single-page form, and they mailed my new card and the marriage certificate back to me.

Of course, this would make no difference at all in the above case, because I'm a woman, not a man. *eyeroll*

Edited at 2013-01-30 04:36 pm (UTC)
tigerdreams 29th-Jan-2013 07:45 pm (UTC)
Ah, inconsistent laws resulting from outdated gender expectations, we meet again...

I'm disappointed to see that Connecticut doesn't allow men to change their names upon marriage with the same procedure that women can use. As the article points out, what are gay couples supposed to do? We have legal gay marriage here.

Also, my boyfriend has entertained the possibility of taking my name when we eventually marry, and it's irritating to know that he'd need to go through an elaborate and expensive legal process in order to do it. >:[
martyfan 29th-Jan-2013 08:16 pm (UTC)
At least now you're forewarned, I guess?
wikilobbying 29th-Jan-2013 07:58 pm (UTC)
it's so ridiculous that it's such a hassle for women to keep their last names and for men to adopt new surnames after marriage. and given it's the grand (i say this with all sarcasm intended) state of florida, i wouldn't be surprised if racism were thread into them going after him for "fraud," as well.
sesmo 29th-Jan-2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
I hadn't heard about it being a hassle for a woman to keep her name. Then again, I live in one of the states that easily allows name changes. Friends of mine picked a new last name when they got married, and had no trouble.
akashasheiress 29th-Jan-2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
In my country, a woman's surname used to be automatically changed to that of her husband's unless she it was specified otherwise. Today, no names are changed unless otherwise notified.
furrygreen 29th-Jan-2013 08:16 pm (UTC)
Why is this even an issue? Is Florida so hard up that they need to fine everyone for everyone conceivable thing to make up a budget deficient?

Or is this more racism towards Latino's? I know a lot tend to keep both last names when they get married.
fragbert 29th-Jan-2013 08:38 pm (UTC)
I doubt even Obersturmbahnfuhrer (Governor) Scott has the ability to plunge into the legendary bureaucratic monstrosity that is the Florida DMV and make any substantial changes.

This is just another example of Florida being 95% untouched by progress in human evolution.
rainbow_fish 29th-Jan-2013 08:52 pm (UTC)
" When he explained he was changing his name due to marriage, he was told 'that only works for women'".

fluffydragon 29th-Jan-2013 09:13 pm (UTC)
dammit.. I think my comment got eaten.. the gist of it was my husband has two last names, one for state and one for federal documents. he was born in one of two counties in NC where it's a blue law that makes it illegal for you to take your wife's name - he had to write the counties to get permission. And it's still not all sorted out.
toastieghostie 29th-Jan-2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
What even, is it really that hard to just change the poor guy's name? Especially if he got his passport and Social Security changed...I don't see the problem other than people being purposely obtuse.

Can't wait for all the hassle of changing my name. I keep putting it off because I know it'll be hell -__-
d00ditsemily 29th-Jan-2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
Looks like FL dropped the allegations and his license got returned

skellington1 29th-Jan-2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
Excellent. Reading that, it makes me suspect that it was less "backwards state policy" and more "a backwards individual (or individuals) at the DMV who got drunk on a tiny piece of power." That would at least explain the "It only works for women" line (person called on to explain gets defensive, reverts to crap), if not why they called it fraud in the first place...

zhiva_the_mage 29th-Jan-2013 10:18 pm (UTC)
# According to Kuvin, 9 states enable a man to change his name upon marriage: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota. #


another item for my list of things which Ukraine does better than USA.
glass_houses 30th-Jan-2013 12:58 am (UTC)
Go MA :)))
iolarah 30th-Jan-2013 12:53 am (UTC)
I didn't realize it was an issue anywhere, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised. A guy I went to high school with took his wife's name after they married, and I don't think he had any problems, but that's Canada...
i_amthecosmos 30th-Jan-2013 01:11 am (UTC)
I kept my last name, which wasn't a problem in Alabama, but I've gotten more than odd looks. In fact, I had a bank teller tell me I was heading for a divorce by not "submitting". Seriously. And at the time, I was too nice to tell her to shut the hell up and keep that opinion to herself. (I dare someone to try it now.)

The Florida DMV must have some real assholes working there.
nycscribbler 30th-Jan-2013 03:17 am (UTC)
Da fuh? I'm really glad it worked out for him, but it shouldn't have taken publicly shaming the state of Florida to do it.

I live in New York, and when my husband and I got the license, it was all "Are you changing your name to his?" "Nope." "Are you changing your name to hers?" "Nope." Moving right along. I can't understand why it wouldn't be that simple.
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