Women Barred From Passing On Surnames in DC

Margaret McGilvray and Dan Redmond are fighting the District of Columbia for the right to name their child how they choose. Their child, Alexander, now 3 months old, still does not have a birth certificate because the District of Columbia will not allow the couple to give the baby his mother’s surname. In fact, since May 1, 2000, it has been illegal in DC for married couples to give their children their mothers’ surnames. Carl Wilson, DC vital records registrar, indicated to the Washington Post that the law was created to help “establish identity at birth.” At the hospital, however, Alexander’s crib clearly marked his identity as “Baby McGilvray.” Alexander’s parents have now filed suit in US District Court, contending that the DC regulation discriminates against women and violates free speech and the right to privacy.

The DC law is puzzling, as laws around the country requiring patronymic names have been reversed. According to Deborah Baumgarten of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, “We’re not aware of anyone in the country enforcing this sort of law for years.” More surprising, however, is that the law was written only two years ago. A spokesperson for DC Mayor Anthony Williams (D) told reporters that he believed the law would be amended. “My sense is that this regulation has no place in the 21st century.”


Washington Post, 5/15/02

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