Social Security Updates Name Change Policy
The Social Security Administration has updated its policy so that partners in same-sex couples can go through the agency to change their names.
The development comes after the federal agency had denied numerous couples the right, even though same-sex marriage has been legal in California for more than a month and an SSA document from July acknowledged marriage equality coming to the state. The document also said marriage certificates for same-sex couples who’ve been legally married are "valid evidence of a name change."
The policy change hadn’t made it to the Social Security office in the East Bay city of Fremont when Lisa Hagan, 46, went there to have her name changed. Hagan - whose maiden name is Gray - married Dawn Hagan, 37, August 12 in Oakland. The women, who live in Fremont, have been together for four years.
Hagan went to her local SSA office August 14, with a completed Social Security form number 5 (http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.pdf) and her marriage certificate in hand.
A worker there "said I had all the right paperwork," but then "she asked me if it was a same-sex marriage, and I said, ’Yes,’" said Hagan.
The employee left. When she returned about 15 minutes later, "She said she was sorry, they did not have the go-ahead to do name changes for same-sex marriages yet," said Hagan. She said the staffer told her that she would hold onto the paperwork, and once the agency’s policy changed, she’d submit the documents and send Hagan a new Social Security card.
"Then she congratulated me for getting married, which was nice, but I was a little disappointed," said Hagan. "I didn’t know what to say. I was confused."
She added, "I didn’t feel like she was being homophobic. She seemed kind of disappointed herself that she couldn’t fix it for me."
When Hagan got home, she emailed the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the national LGBT organization based in San Francisco. An NCLR staffer told her "they were getting similar complaints," said Hagan.
In an interview Monday, August 19, Shannon Minter, NCLR’s legal director, said, "A lot of people are having problems" changing their names even after the U.S. Supreme Court announced June 26 that it had effectively struck down the state’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban.
"The Social Security Administration has not updated its guidance, so all the Social Security staff are still looking at an outdated guidance that says same-sex couples cannot marry in California," said Minter.
Minter said NCLR has alerted the federal agency to the problem and he and others were "pretty confident they will fix it promptly."