wife, Melissa Landis, with their daughter
Anne Hatton, after their wedding in
Washington, D.C., in 2011.
For the year since she married her partner, waitress Cynthia Landis has legally been a Landis. It’s the name on her Social Security card, her District of Columbia marriage certificate and her Virginia driver’s license.The bigotry behind this law is obvious, but there's an added bit of stupidity. The state would issue Landis a driver's license in the name of Landis's ex-husband, Hatton, because it views that as her legal name. She could get a name change, but that would require a court order and that would require a lawyer. The Landises can't afford one.
But the state of West Virginia won’t recognize it. The Division of Motor Vehicles won’t issue the Romney resident a driver’s license in that name because she’s married to a woman, and state law forbids the agency from recognizing any documents related to a same-sex marriage.
Under the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government also forbids marriage equality. But Landis had no problem getting her new name on her Social Security card. And Virginia issued her a new driver's license with her married name. Yet when she and her wife moved across state lines, idiocy poked its head into their personal business. When the 30-day waiting period for new residents to get a West Virginia license expires, Landis will be technically driving illegally even though her Virginia license is good for eight more years.
And if she gets stopped without a West Virginia license? That's a class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Second offense: Up to one year in jail, a fine of $2,500, or both.
West Virginia's law isn't the worst nose-thumbing at equality, to be sure. Just one of the many hassles put in the way of basic freedoms that most Americans take for granted. The day when such assbackwardness becomes a mere laugh line about the past cannot come soon enough.