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June 17, 2009

GLAD DOMA Plaintiff Can Get Passport in Married Name

Keith Toney, a plaintiff in the lawsuit Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, will be able to get a U.S. passport in his married name.  That is the result of a May 27, 2009 change in policy at the State Department regarding the issuance of passports to people who have changed their name after marrying someone of the same sex.

“Denying married same-sex couples the ability to have their married names on their passports not only puts them at risk in traveling with two identities, it demeans their marriages,” said Mary L. Bonauto, lead counsel on the case. “We’re glad that the federal government will recognize state law name changes arising from marriages from this point forward and end at least this discrimination against married persons.”

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders filed Gill in March 2009 to challenge section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on behalf of six married same-sex couples and three men whose spouses have died.

According to a letter sent to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) by the Department of Justice, the Department of State has “amended the relevant provision of its Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) to provide for issuance of passports in a new name based on a legal name change recognized under state law.”  Download the letter by clicking here.

As a result, plaintiff Keith Toney and all married same-sex couples will be able to get new passports based on the name on their marriage certificates, if the state issuing the marriage certificate, like Massachusetts, recognizes the name change by operation of law.  The change is outlined in a section (7 FAM 1359 Appendix C) of the manual entitled “Change of Name by Operation of Law, Including Same Sex Marriage and Civil Union, and Name Change for Use in U.S. Passports.”

When Keith Fitzpatrick and Al Toney III married in 2004, Keith changed his name so that everyone in their family – Keith, Al, and Al’s daughter Kayla – would share the same name.  This change was especially important to their daughter.  While Keith had no trouble updating his driver’s license, the federal government said no when he tried to do the same on his passport, because of DOMA.  Consequently, his passport and his driver’s license have two different names, making foreign travel precarious in a post- 9/11 world.

“We’re thrilled that we will no longer have to worry about being interrogated when we go through airport security, or anywhere else outside of the U.S. simply because of a discrepancy in my legal identification documents,” said Keith.  Al said, “We are also pleased to be treated the same as all other families.  As an African-American man, former police officer, and diversity and inclusion educator, being treated equally under the law is very important to me and our family.”

Keith applied for his new passport on Monday, June 22

The other plaintiffs’ claims in GLAD’s Gill lawsuit involve income taxation, Social Security, and federal employees’ benefits.  Complete information about the case is at http://www.glad.org/doma.

In the News:

New England Cable News - Gay Couples Can Use Married Names on Passports

Bay Windows - Feds Give Legal Recognition to Married Couples for Passport Purposes

Boston.com - Same-sex Couples Win Change in U.S. Passport Rules

Bay Windows - Score One for GLAD Against DOMA

The Advocate - DOMA Lawsuit Wins First Victory

The Atlantic - Challenges to DOMA have Only Begun