When I was 21 I married my high school sweetheart (the mother of my 3 children). She wanted to keep her last name, and I wanted her to keep her last name for several reasons, not dissimilar to the couple's reasons in this case, but mostly having to do with my feminist tendencies. But, after a couple of years of enduring incredible harassment for that choice (credit was an absolute nightmare; we even had the registrar of a hotel we stayed at change our names for us in the register because "it just looks better"), we finally opted to hyphenate our last names together (to the never ending chagrin of our children, I'm certain). This was in 1977. According to this article, we were among a minority of 3% of [opposite sex, "legally" married] couples who chose that path. By 2001, that number was 20%.
But, it has always seemed to me to be patently unfair that we had to go through all that legal rigmarole to get it done. If a woman wants to take her husband's name, no problem! The patriarchy makes that choice a simple one. Just do it.
This couple in California just sued because the groom wished to take the wife's last name and the procedure in CA required a court order to make that happen. It seems like a slam-dunk violation of the 14th Amendment to me. I'm glad to see that my 14th Amendment professor, Mark Rosenbaum, director of the ACLU in CA is taking their case. (h/t Alas, A Blog)
Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU in Southern California, said it is the first federal lawsuit of its kind in the country. “It’s the perfect marriage application for the 17th century,” Rosenbaum said. “It belongs in the same trash can as dowries.”
On another, somewhat related, note I was reading about the silly "I swear I'm not a transsexual" oath that marriage applicants are required to take in Clark County, Ohio. This story has been around a while, I only just now decided to do some background reading on it. In that background reading, I discovered that 1) there is no residency requirement to get married in Ohio (which means my Girl and I might go down there just as an interesting and fun test) and 2) that if you're female you only need to be 16 or 17 to marry, but if you're male you need to be 18. It sounds to me to be very much like the fact pattern of Craig v. Boren, the case that instituted intermediate scrutiny for gender related statutes (of course, that case dealt with the sale of alcohol, but I suspect the underlying logic is nearly a perfect match). It's only a matter of time before this anachronism also falls by the wayside.