Naples man deals with DMV denying gay marriage license

Hoping to snip through the red tape of getting a driver license, new Collier County resident David Scott Duseau showed up at the Department of Motor Vehicles well prepared.

Birth certificate, proof of address — check. Social Security card and marriage certificate to document his name change — check, check.

Although he brought everything the DMV instructed online, Duseau didn't walk away with a new ID that mid-April day. He said they stopped processing his paperwork when DMV staff saw David's spouse was named Paul.

"Had he had a name like Pat, it wouldn't have been an issue," said Duseau, 46, referring to a gender-ambiguous name.

When the couple legally married in Massachusetts in 2007, Duseau took his husband's name, changing his driver license and Social Security card. They knew Florida wouldn't recognize same-sex marriage when they moved to North Naples this winter.

Then they learned the marriage certificate didn't count either, even to show how his name changed from Burris to Duseau.

"I'm not asking to recognize my marriage," Duseau said. "Just recognize my name change."

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which oversees driver license issuance, can't do that, staff said.

"It's not that we don't recognize the marriage," agency spokeswoman Courtney Heidelberg said. "We as a department cannot recognize the documentation of a same-sex marriage because of that law."

That law, she explained, is Florida statute 741.212, which states that no matter where the union occurred, same-sex marriages "are not recognized for any purpose in this state," adding that state agencies can't recognize "any public act, record, or judicial proceeding" of a marriage other than the one "between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

"We have looked at it to determine if there was any way, any type, any flexibility in the law," Heidelberg said. "It's so specific we can't — we have to follow (it)."

That understanding of the law is questionable, according to the legal director for the ACLU of Florida.

"I don't think the DMV is correct in it's interpretation," said Randall Marshall. "He's not asking the State of Florida to recognize his marriage, he's asking the State of Florida to recognize his name change. I don't think this statute prohibits the DMV from using that document for that purpose." He believes there is "room for an attempt to get the DMV to change its interpretation."

The Florida DMV requires three forms of identification from license applicants: a primary one, like a birth certificate or a passport, proof of Social Security number, and proofs of residential address. If the applicant changed names, a certified copy of a marriage certificate or court order is needed to document that change. On its website, the agency states only that marriage licenses "must be from a governmental agency."

Staff at the local DMV office were polite, Duseau said, but told him to get his Florida license he had to bypass the marriage certificate step and either get a passport with his married name, or get a court order declaring his married name. Both options meant money and time he didn't want to — and didn't feel he should have to — spend.

"Why should I be fined or taxed... (when) others don't have to pay?" Duseau asked, citing passport and court order fees.

After a week of stalling during which Duseau emailed local and national media, he said he capitulated, paying $110 to apply for a new passport.

The risk of being without the license, however, could be costlier. A new Florida resident caught driving without a state license after 30 days could face a second-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.

"The problem you are facing is experienced by most same-sex married couples who reside in states that do not recognize their marriage," wrote Bruce Bell of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a Boston-based organization, in response to an email from Duseau.

Social Security accepted his name change because it was done in a state where the marriage is recognized; otherwise, that wouldn't have worked for Duseau either, Bell said.

Because a court order is generally needed to legally change one's name in Florida outside of marriage, individuals who undergo non-marital name changes already have that legal document to present to the DMV.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage to include one man and one woman. Sixty-two percent of Florida voters in 2008 backed an amendment to the state constitution to explicitly ban same-sex marriages; Collier and Lee voters supported the change at 63 percent and 65 percent respectively.

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment's official sponsor, called the driver license issue "innocuous."

Because "marriage benefits society in unique ways that same-sex couples do not," one of the perks is the ability to automatically change one's name, Stemberger said.

The DMV, he added, "should follow the law, and they did follow the law. It's unfortunate that it's an inconvenience for these two individuals."Duseau's case is not isolated. Another Florida couple was told in January by DMV staff over the phone their marriage certificate would be valid to prove their name change, but in person it was rejected.

They were excited to get their licenses at first.

"(It's) the final step of the marriage, it really signifies you're together..." said Rachel Lambert-Jolley, 26, a St. Petersburg resident who merged surnames with her wife after their 2011 marriage in Connecticut.

The DMV rejection quashed that, she said, describing the scene as "embarrassing and upsetting."

Brian Winfield, managing director of gay rights advocacy organization Equality Florida, believes these cases aren't about validating gay marriage in Florida.

"Our feeling is that there is a huge difference between recognizing this couple as legally married in Florida and allowing them to change their name on their license," Winfield said. "They're being discriminated against, humiliated by being told their relationship is meaningless, and financially penalized."

The DMV and Equality Florida do not have figures on how frequently name-change issues for same-sex couples arise, but Winfield suspects it's more than these two cases. Some couples pay for the court order or passport to get the license ordeal over with, he said.

"Many people having had that experience just don't want to fight about it anymore," Winfield said.

Lambert-Jolley believes at the very least, Florida needs a protocol for same-sex spouses who change their names.

"We're not asking you for a wedding gift," she said. "We're asking for our driver's licenses."

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 75

Here4Now writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

terrarock writes:

in response to Here4Now:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow, I thought such hatred was done and gone in the 1800's. Wow and sad.

terrarock writes:

in response to jimslade48:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why are you so mean?

Here4Now writes:

in response to terrarock:

Wow, I thought such hatred was done and gone in the 1800's. Wow and sad.

No hatred at all. Seriously, I have friends who are gay. My point is, if that's your choice of lifestyle, great, but DON"T WHINE ABOUT IT. I's not an easy life in many ways, and if springing for a passport solves your problem, shut up and do it - and move on to the next hurdle.

CoolridenJoe (Inactive) writes:

If you really want your name changed then cough up the money and have it legally changed through the Government!

Sick writes:

Normal people don't ever have this problem.

IE: woman's new married name.

Here4Now writes:

Wow, I used a comment/slogan that the gay community uses and endorses all the time, and NDN canned it. Thanks for consistently being inconsistent guys!

OddsMaker (Inactive) writes:

in response to Here4Now:

Wow, I used a comment/slogan that the gay community uses and endorses all the time, and NDN canned it. Thanks for consistently being inconsistent guys!

Well, it is the NDN, where incompetence and poor journalism is king.

I read a local sports story this morning (1st Baptist baseball) and the incoherent reporting was frustrating.

The boss editor must have been away from the office again.

swfljim writes:

With so many "big" problems facing our nation, this whole thing seems silly and petty.
Can you imagine the outrage and confusion if Massachusetts decided not to recognize Florida marriage licenses?
Although African Americans were persecuted to a much greater degree, this kind of stuff will go down as our generation's example of "whites only" drinking fountains and sitting in the back of the bus.
The DMV doesn't have to recognize gay marriage, just give the guy a drivers license.
The Supreme Court will weigh-in soon on gay marriage and the smart money says Florida will be issuing gay marriage licenses when all is said and done.
Then a new group will have to find another street corner to wander around holding a sign in protest.
It's 2012 and there seems to be no end to the petty, trivial morality issues that dominated life in 1957. Let's all move on and start tackling the big issues like health care, education, energy and jobs.

terrarock writes:

in response to Here4Now:

No hatred at all. Seriously, I have friends who are gay. My point is, if that's your choice of lifestyle, great, but DON"T WHINE ABOUT IT. I's not an easy life in many ways, and if springing for a passport solves your problem, shut up and do it - and move on to the next hurdle.

He had to pay a fee I was not required to pay when I moved here. This is only because my spouse checked the applicable gender box that we avoided the cost. So he says hey, "not fair!" Then instead of criticizing a silly law, folks here decide it is a good excuse to verbally kick and punch a guy who is clearly outnumbered. That is what is going on here, bully comments from a larger group of people with special rights. Does verbally beating someone who is already discriminated against make writers here feel better? If this were the 60’s folks here would be holding the fire hose or at best looking the other way. If this were the Germany in the 40’s folks here would be driving the train or at best looking the other way. You’d think we’d learn. For some reason I expected more from humans, I am sad.

terrarock writes:

in response to swfljim:

With so many "big" problems facing our nation, this whole thing seems silly and petty.
Can you imagine the outrage and confusion if Massachusetts decided not to recognize Florida marriage licenses?
Although African Americans were persecuted to a much greater degree, this kind of stuff will go down as our generation's example of "whites only" drinking fountains and sitting in the back of the bus.
The DMV doesn't have to recognize gay marriage, just give the guy a drivers license.
The Supreme Court will weigh-in soon on gay marriage and the smart money says Florida will be issuing gay marriage licenses when all is said and done.
Then a new group will have to find another street corner to wander around holding a sign in protest.
It's 2012 and there seems to be no end to the petty, trivial morality issues that dominated life in 1957. Let's all move on and start tackling the big issues like health care, education, energy and jobs.

Thank you! We have unemployed to get working and kids to get schooling. Passing laws to make sure couples have the correct chromosomes is a huge waste of resources.

Johnnymarco49 writes:

in response to Sick:

Normal people don't ever have this problem.

IE: woman's new married name.

Well this might be the first but you are right!

beetlejuice writes:

We're not asking you for a wedding gift," she said. "We're asking for our driver's licenses."
well driver's license yup
changin name uhm no
it's complicated

savethewhalz writes:

"Naples man deals with DMV denying gay marriage license." Just curious, mosty hetero and no intention whatsoever of getting married to my GF, but if I had a stroke and changed my mind, do she and I have to apply at the DMV ?

LambertJolley writes:

The statement: "Social Security accepted his name change because it was done in a state where the marriage is recognized; otherwise, that wouldn't have worked for Duseau either, Bell said." is false. Charlotte and I were married in CT. but got new SS cards here, in St. Pete without a problem. We presented our marriage license from CT and even talked to the woman at the window about our ceremony. There was absolutely no issue whatsoever.

Again, a breakdown and flaw is exposed. How can folks who we trust to know the "laws" be so uneducated on a single subject? Fill me in, please.

Coastal writes:

Falling home prices drag new buyers under water

Jarvis (Inactive) writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

HAP writes:

Go back to your gay town if you don't like the laws here.

Sick writes:

in response to Johnnymarco49:

Well this might be the first but you are right!

Why is this any different than a womans situation after marriage?

malcolmlandry writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

LexiP writes:

Why can't you all understand that people have the right to live the lives they want to live? Why is it necessary to berate them because you disagree with their choices? Grow up and be big boys and girls...

volochine writes:

Come on, Gov. Scott....Step in, and correct this social wrong. SWFL is all about money, and it has been proven that gays make a lot more money than straights on the average. Do not make Florida Anti-Gay. We have Key West. Florida needs gay people. We don't need haters like HAP.

mamabear4 writes:

boo stinkin hoo. blah blah blah . i fully support the dmvs decision!

mr_1_term_proposition writes:

Cry me a river. God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.

Cherieo3 writes:

in response to Here4Now:

No hatred at all. Seriously, I have friends who are gay. My point is, if that's your choice of lifestyle, great, but DON"T WHINE ABOUT IT. I's not an easy life in many ways, and if springing for a passport solves your problem, shut up and do it - and move on to the next hurdle.

Re: IMSurfin...Agree. Just do it...but they seem to WANT to make it an issue to get a little media coverage and few minutes of fame.
Makes no difference to me what their lifestyle is..but quit shoving it in everyone else's face.

staghorn writes:

what would you expect? that republican strangle-hold 'party of NO' has spoken. they said "NO!" ...typical

voting is like driving a car.
choose (R) to move backwards
choose (D) to move forward

republicans, taking us back to the 11th century.

drolds writes:

in response to HAP:

Go back to your gay town if you don't like the laws here.

I thought San Francisco was the only one. Do you mean their might be more?

Frankly2 writes:

This is a clear example of unintended consequences. The stricter law was put in place to prevent illegals from obtaining false ID. The law should be amended and common sense applied.

drolds writes:

in response to staghorn:

what would you expect? that republican strangle-hold 'party of NO' has spoken. they said "NO!" ...typical

voting is like driving a car.
choose (R) to move backwards
choose (D) to move forward

republicans, taking us back to the 11th century.

I have a manual transmission. I have a R but their is no D, just five small numbers. What should I do?

beerbong writes:

He knew all a long there would be problems. Why did he not legally get his name change on everything before he came to Florida. He just wanted the attention.

staghorn writes:

in response to drolds:

I have a manual transmission. I have a R but their is no D, just five small numbers. What should I do?

you must be one of the republicans. just another one who cannot think for themselves.

Hollywoody writes:

Must be a slow news day ndn? You could have elaborated on Michell's obamas dinner last night but instead you print a piece about the problems of a gay transplant. OMG. NDN must be fill of gays..

happyhorowitz34145 writes:

Plain and simple.
Go back to Massachusetts.

All you Massholes are all alike! WAH WAH WAH!

Crustina writes:

Sounds like Karma to me. This (guy?) was out of line on his visit to the DMV. He was demanding and rude. Everyone thought so. He and his (wife?) are becoming known pretty quicky in Naples in the development where they live. They are both mouthy angry people that feel they are above everyone. The neighbors cannot stand them.
They need to learn that they, like everyone else need to follow the laws and abide by them.
Dont like the laws here? Leave!!!
Not against Gay marriage, just ugly people that feel they are owed something. Glad to see this yahoo put in his place.

ballinemt writes:

who let this man who loves other men-a-tron into FL? At least here in FL we still have values that represent america when it was created.

ballinemt writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

drolds writes:

in response to staghorn:

you must be one of the republicans. just another one who cannot think for themselves.

When you get older & wiser I will teach you how to drive a manual.

26yearsonmarco writes:

Looks like "We the People" are using their Freedom of Speech on this subject, but not this one:

• Michelle Obama visit: 3-hour tour ends Updated 4/27/2012 at 5:00 p.m. 72 comments
• Comments » Disabled by the Naplesnews.com

First lady’s visit today not expected to impact residents’ day-to-day activities
Comments » Disabled by Marconews.com

Johnnymarco49 writes:

in response to Sick:

Why is this any different than a womans situation after marriage?

I was talking about the part that you wrote regarding normal people don't have this problem as being right.

As far as the difference...if you don't understand that part ...well...there is no hope for you, Take a basic biology class and move out of Florida.

CarpeVeritas writes:

in response to ballinemt:

who let this man who loves other men-a-tron into FL? At least here in FL we still have values that represent america when it was created.

I think it's idiotic for this guy to change his last name to his partner's, a practice developed to announce the patrimony of offspring.

Many married women these days keep their "maiden" name for a variety of reasons.

But it's none of my dam business to tell others how to style themselves, or have government police a private matter. Individual liberties (a hallmark of the values when America was created) only mean something to some, who would force their values upon the rest of the public.

For instance, a tea partyish comment about returning to the 17th century: pillory, branding, forcing all to walk lockstep with slave-holding elites, is patently absurd.

What "return to the values of our founding fathers" really means is "it's unconstitutional for the Republic to move one step forward (except for the things that benefit me.)"

How easy it is for some, in the name of the Republic, to foist their personal prejudices on others.

That ain't the American way.

Kyser851 writes:

It must be horrible to be stuck with an ignorant thinking hateful mind. I'm not surprised that these same old trolls on this blog are saying the same old blah blah blah but to a different subject. It's the same old racism crap that spews out of their mouths just because they think they can. How sad for them!!

Sad sad commentary on Collier County!

Captian_Cataracts writes:

Winfield said. "They're being discriminated against, humiliated by being told their relationship is meaningless, and financially penalized."
--------------------------------------------

And the point about the relationship being meaningless counts for what?

Why should the gays have it any better than the straights?

The straights relationships are meaningless too.

Let them suffer the pain & agony of marraige; no reason to let them off easy.

HappyFisherman writes:

in response to mr_1_term_proposition:

Cry me a river. God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.

he created both but we get your point

wonderful (Inactive) writes:

in response to Cherieo3:

Re: IMSurfin...Agree. Just do it...but they seem to WANT to make it an issue to get a little media coverage and few minutes of fame.
Makes no difference to me what their lifestyle is..but quit shoving it in everyone else's face.

Just a note: you can get these licenses down in Key West at the Red Root Inn!

Don't seem to be too happy for being so gay?

Illusion writes:

One common, and very amusing, retort I encounter whenever I point out that not all "laws" are equally moral or ethical, is "It's the LAW; you have to obey whether you agree or not". Usually that is followed by some personal insults and innuendo.

It is a pathetic excuse for an argument. The first thing bad government (but I repeat myself) does is make its own abuses "legal". It fools those who just want to do the right thing into taking the side of the bad guys.

Remember that there is right and there is wrong, and legality has less to do with rightness with each passing day. Suppose history repeats itself and suddenly a segment of the population—in the past it has been Jews and runaway slaves—is forced into hiding in order to survive. The law also demands you report any of those in hiding or you become a criminal just like they are. Would you obey the law? Would you ridicule and report those who refused to obey the law? It would, after all, be "The Law".

If you would, I pity you. I still will not obey laws that violate the basic, inborn natural human rights of others, even people I don't particularly like. My conscience is more valuable than is the feeling of being a "good citizen" by doing the bidding of those who believe they have the authority to rule.

Plus, there is a glaring double standard. We are expected to obey everything government imposes upon us, yet government employees conveniently forget to obey the laws that bind them. And, judging from recent history, they can't generally be held accountable.

Legally, as amendments, the Bill of Rights supersedes anything in the body of the Constitution. Where the two clash, the Bill of Rights is the supreme law of the land. That means every gun "law", no matter how minor, is illegal, and enforcing it is a very serious crime. Yet, how many enforcers end up in jail for enforcing gun regulations and prohibitions?

It also means that the constitutional mandate for government employees to stay out of your home and papers (and today, your car, computer, and phone records) except in severely limited circumstances is rock solid. Any "fishing expedition"-type searches are illegal. Contrary to the clear intent of the law, warrants are rubber-stamped with no specific criteria, usually to enforce laws that the Constitution clearly prohibits.

In the coming years, as things average citizens care about become just as illegal as those things they don't, I will be amused to see the shift in attitudes, and will be thinking "Welcome to the party, pal". — Kent McManigal, "Right, wrong differ from legality", 10 April 2012

terrarock writes:

in response to mr_1_term_proposition:

Cry me a river. God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.

To the people who say things like ‘It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’, which is a nice rhyme, if you want to be anti-gay with a rhyme. Rhyming is pretty gay though, so you lose.
I understand what they’re saying though the first couple was a man and a woman. So we, like model ourselves after them because it worked out perfectly for them. If you don’t read the whole thing. If you do read the whole thing you find out that they’re not even the first couple. You know who is? Adam and God. That’s two dudes everybody. So look you’re modeling yourselves wrong. God and Adam are hanging out, God says: You’re gonna live in a garden, naked all the time, and I am watching always. Even though you’re wearing a leaf I can see through a tree. I am God.

Patton writes:

in response to terrarock:

Wow, I thought such hatred was done and gone in the 1800's. Wow and sad.

Inbreeds don't change with the times.

Patton writes:

in response to happyhorowitz34145:

Plain and simple.
Go back to Massachusetts.

All you Massholes are all alike! WAH WAH WAH!

Putz

Quietcat writes:

in response to beerbong:

He knew all a long there would be problems. Why did he not legally get his name change on everything before he came to Florida. He just wanted the attention.

I'm sure it never occured to him there would be problems. Florida has pretty stringent rules regarding driver's licenses compared to other states. I guess that's why so many people drive without them. That said, this is the reason that who and what constitutes a marriage needs to be standardized throughout the country. This is the exact type of problem that was predicted by Republicans who objected to states making laws that have national consequences. We either need to nullify these "marriages", have a Constitutional ammendment that recognizes them or change laws to allow civil unions which would correct many of the inequities that were at the core of the gay marriage debate at the beginning. The current situation is a disaster.

Patton writes:

in response to HAP:

Go back to your gay town if you don't like the laws here.

I cannot believe how many inbred people there are here, unbelievable.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features