Connie Wilson, who recently relocated from California to Texas with her wife , says the state’s Department of Public Safety refused to issue her a vehicle driver’s license simply because her last name was changed via a same-sex marriage.
Upon marrying her partner of nine years in the state of California last year, Connie took her wife’s last name which appears on both her California driver’s license, her Social Security card, and all of the couple’s personal records.
The couple recently relocated to the Houston area with their three children. With her California driver’s license set to expire, Wilson took her papers to a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) office last week to obtain a Texas driver’s license. When a DPS employee observed that Wilson’s last name did not match her birth certificate, she produced her California marriage license identifying her spouse as Aimee Wilson.
Connie Wilson recalled, “Her only words to me were, ‘Is this same-sex?’ I remember hesitating for probably 10 seconds. I didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t want to lie, but I knew I was in trouble because I wasn’t going to be able to get a license.”
Wilson eventually replied stating that although California doesn’t differentiate, she is indeed married to a woman.
Wilson recalled, “She immediately told me, ‘You can’t use this to get your license. This doesn’t validate your last name. Do you have anything else?’ She told me I would never get a license with my current name, that the name doesn’t belong to me.”
Texas upholds both a state statute and a constitutional amendment prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. However, Wilson insists that her point is that she isn’t asking DPS to recognize her marriage, but she is trying to obtain an accurate Texas driver’s license reflecting her legal name as it is according to the state of California and the U.S. Federal government.
Although the Texas DPS website says existing Texas residents can’t use same-sex marriage licenses from others states to update their licenses, there is no posted policy regarding new Texas residents whose names have already been changed.
“I still can’t believe I’m being met with all the roadblocks that I am,” said Wilson.
Wilson said the DPS employee, who holds the position of supervisor, suggested that instead she apply for a driver’s license under her maiden name. Wilson said she is no longer in possession of the necessary documentation to do so. This would be typical of a couple who was married where one has taken on the family name of the other.
Connie Wilson was later told by the DPS supervisor that she could apply for a Texas driver’s license only if she were to obtain a Texas court order authorizing her name change to Wilson. But Mrs. Wilson said obtaining such an order would cost at least $500 and there’s no guarantee the petition would be successful. If she were to fail to convince the judge to authorize the change, she would not be eligible for a refund for the fees paid to petition the court.
Texas DPS policy does state that people moving to Texas from other states cannot legally obtain driver’s licenses showing their married names if using same-sex marriage licenses for proof of identity.
To add to her troubles, Wilson said the pending expiration of her California driver’s license has threatened her family’s ability to close on a new found home in Texas, and could also interfere with the couple’s ability to obtain disability benefits for one of their three children, who has special needs.
Wilson has been in contact with Equality Texas, which is now working closely with the office of Houston Senator Sylvia Garcia (D) on this very issue.
“This is a disappointing incident and certainly not reflective of Texas hospitality or values,” Equality Texas field organizer Daniel Williams said. “Equality Texas is working to resolve this matter quickly.”
Paul Townsend, general counsel for Sen. Garcia, said he was in a holding pattern, waiting for a written explanation of the agency’s position before he issues a formal written response.
“It’s frustrating because I don’t know what exactly is going on and DPS is not really being responsive,” Townsend stated.
Wilson vows to obtain a Texas driver’s license under her current family name one way or another, and said she plans to file a lawsuit against Texas DPS.
Mrs. Wilson concluded, “I don’t want any other person to go through what I have experienced over this.”