California Man Sues to Take Wife’s Last Name

A California man has filed a lawsuit alleging that the state’s laws unfairly discriminate against men who wish to take their wives’ last names by making the process far more cumbersome than for women taking their husbands’ names. Among the roadblocks faced by male name-changers:

In California, a man who wants to take his wife’s name must file a petition, pay more than $300, place a public notice for weeks in a local newspaper and then appear before a judge.

It’s stunning that this issue persists in present-day America. Although instances of men taking their wives’ last names remain the exception, there is no valid reason for the law to treat men and women differently in this regard. I’d like to chalk this up to legislatures simply not thinking about this issue, and thus not equalizing the law as Georgia(!), Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota have. But part of me wonders what the landscape would look like if a movement developed to change these laws nationwide. I wonder how many voices for “traditional family values” would come out against such changes? Maybe very few — after all, stumping for the blatant preservation of patriarchy isn’t likely to poll as well as discriminating against gay Americans.


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