By HOLBROOK MOHRAssociated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi man has taken his wife's last name after the ACLU complained he was told by state officials that he would need a court order to do so because it was not traditional.
Robert Everhart, 28, of Pascagoula, born Robert McCarthy, changed his last name on his driver's license Wednesday by using his marriage certificate, as many women do in taking their husband's last name.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi sent a letter to Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Albert Santa Cruz on Tuesday, saying the agency was violating state and federal law.
DPS spokesman Warren Strain said Tuesday that Everhart's request was unusual, and employees at driver's license stations were operating under an old practice. He said the employees were informed that men can use marriage certificates to change their names, just like women do.
Everhart got his name changed at the Pascagoula driver's license station, the first one that turned him down last November.
Everhart said he could have paid for a court order to make the change long ago, but he fought out of principle. He said it was his decision to take his wife's name and the state should honor it.
"I know most people think I rolled over and took my wife's name," he said in a telephone interview. "But she's the only surviving kid with her parents, and everybody said my name wrong. It was a dual reason. Now all I have to do is worry about people misspelling it."
In its letter to DPS, the ACLU said Everhart had no trouble changing his name with the Social Security Administration. He took his marriage certificate and the new Social Security card to DPS offices in Biloxi, D'Iberville and Pascagoula, but was told he needed a court order. He said he was turned down even after providing driver's license officials with a copy of the state law that said "his or her" in describing which documents can be used to change names.
He eventually contacted the ACLU.
Bear Atwood, legal director at the ACLU of Mississippi, said she appreciates DPS taking such swift action in response to the letter, which threatened legal action.
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