ACLU Challenges Gender Discrimination on California Marriage Forms

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC) is suing California over an antiquated marriage law that makes it easier for women to assume their husbands’ last names than for a man to assume his wife’s. Under the state’s current law, women only need to fill in a blank on the marriage form and pay a filing fee of $50-$80 to change their last names. Men who seek to take their wives’ names, however, must go through the procedure used for a legal name change: they must file a petition, pay a $300 fee, and advertise the new name for a month in a local newspaper.

“California has the perfect marriage application for the 17th century, and this relic belongs in the trash with laws that forced women to change their names when they married,” said ACLU/SC legal director Mark Rosenbaum.

State Rep. Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) has taken up the ACLU/SC’s cause, introducing a measure, AB102, that would provide a space on the marriage license for either spouse to change his or her last name.

Only six states — Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, and North Dakota — allow men to take their wives’ last name on the marriage application. These applications also allow for a hyphenation or name merge (the latter was an option chosen by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, formerly Antonio Villar, and his wife, who was born Corina Raigosa). In Illinois, it costs men a total of $396 to take their wives’ names.
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ABC News 1/8/07; Sacramento Bee 1/7/07; ACLU press release 12/15/06

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