Friday, December 7, 2012

Around The Nation

West Virginia
Woman Denied Driver's Licence With Wife's Last Name
MORGANTOWN, W.VA -- It's been a year since 34-year-old Cynthia Landis married her partner- 30-year-old Melissa Landis- in the District of Columbia and she legally changed her name to reflect that fact on her Social Security card, her District of Columbia marriage certificate and her Virginia driver's license. 
Her problem now is that she moved and the state of West Virginia's Division of Motor Vehicles won't issue her a driver's license in that name because she's married to a woman and state law forbids the agency from recognizing any documents related to a same-sex marriage. 
According to WVA DMV Deputy Commissioner Steve Dale, his agency would issue her a licence in her ex-husband's last name as according to West Virginia law's criteria, that's still legally her name. Outside of that Dale said, Landis' only option is to get a circuit court judge to order a name change as that would be an acceptable legal document.
"I can't believe that the state has the right to just say, willy-nilly, `We're only going to recognize the legality of the documents we choose and not these.' It's ridiculous," Landis, told the Charleston Gazette adding that she sent a complaint letter to the governor's office.
"I'm not asking the state to recognize my marriage," she said, "but that is the proof that I have that my name has changed."
Landis married 30-year-old Augusta native Melissa Landis on Oct. 8, 2011, and went to the Social Security office in Hampton, Va., within a month to get a new card. The agency accepted her marriage certificate and issued a new card. Then she got a new driver's license. 
The couple lived in Winchester, Va., until late September, when they moved to rural Hampshire County in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle to be near Melissa's family. After 30 days, state law requires new residents to surrender their old licenses and obtain West Virginia cards. 
Technically, Cynthia Landis said, she's now an illegal driver, even though her Virginia license is valid through 2020. 
"I expected whispers and rumors. We're from a small town in a little county. You expect people to say stuff or give you dirty looks in the grocery store,'' she said. "You don't expect a government entity to basically tell you that you don't exist.'' ~ The Charleston Gazette 
According to Dale, his agency staff understands her frustration, "but it is up to each state to establish their own standards," he said. 
In 2000, at the request of then-Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood, West Virginia lawmakers passed their own version of a Defense of Marriage Act, specifying that the only legal union is one between a man and a woman.
That law reads that "public acts, records or judicial proceedings of any other state'' regarding a same-sex marriage, "or a right or claim arising from such relationship, shall not be given effect by this state.''
"If this law were not in effect,'' Dale told the Gazette, "we would have taken the marriage certificate on its face value as an official record and used it.''