(In 10th paragraph, correct quote to read "women" instead of
* Lazaro Sopena adopted his wife's name after they married
* Issued a new passport and Social Security number
* Florida officials suspended driving license
MIAMI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - 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
"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,'" he said.
"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
Jan. 14 confirming that his license had been properly suspended
He is now appealing that order but has not dared get behind
"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.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)