Do You Take This Woman…?
By: Tatiana Edelen
Marriage in the United States is slowly but surely becoming accessible to non-heterosexual couples; there are fewer constraints and obstacles on the road to marriage than there were fifty, twenty-five, even ten years ago. However, one issue continues to move at a snail’s pace towards equality and resolution: a man’s right to take a woman’s last name. Currently in the United States, only six states(Georgia included!) allow a man to take his wife’s last name by use of the standard procedure that would occur if she were taking his—a small fee and a name change directly on the marriage license. In most states, though, the procedure for a man to take his wife’s last name more closely follows the statutory name change procedure that one would follow if changing his name from Steve to Pinocchio, with additional and costly steps included.
For a man, in most states, to be granted a last name change approval, he must file a formal name change request in court, pay hundreds of dollars in fees, await approval (if denied, he must file a formal appeal to the judge,) run a newspaper add for weeks publicizing the name change (in case there are any objections from the public,), and finally return to court for a judge’s approval. This long, arduous process should be an embarrassment to our judicial system.
Our country, in many ways, is still caught in the hooks of outdated, colonial-style politics and traditions. The contractual institution of marriage remains statically tied to a time in which being wed meant a woman became her husband’s property. Not only did she lose her last name but she also lost her own legal agency. In 2014, I find myself frequently baffled at how medieval the institution of marriage appears to be. This is not to say that I am anti-marriage; I have no qualms about people getting married. What I find appalling is the fact that equal rights are so readily dismissed when it concerns marriage. A woman should have the right to take her husband’s last name if she so chooses, but this same right should be extended, in all states, to men.
Another issue here lies in the fact that our patriarchal society attempts to emasculate the man who desires to take on his wife’s last name. Furthermore, the woman who chooses not to take on her husband’s last name is too often labeled with the derogatory use of the word ‘feminist’. This is all socially, culturally, and humanly regressive. It is 2014, and it is time we move beyond this inequality. It is time to start saying “I do” to the promotion of equality.