A Florida man who took his new wife's last name as an "act of love" has been accused of fraud by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles, Reuters reported.
Lazaro Sopena, a 40-year-old real estate developer, offered to change his last name to Dinh, after his 2011 marriage to Hanh Dinh, to keep her family's Vietnamese surname alive.
Cuban-born Lazaro Dinh came to the United States at the age of 11 in 1984.
His wife's family came to the U.S. in 1990. Hanh lived in refugee camps for seven years and was separated from her father.
As a tribute to her his wife's father and her ancestry, Lazaro changed his name.
"It was an act of love. I have no particular emotional ties to my last name," he told Reuters.
Shortly after the marriage, Lazaro obtained a new Social Security card with his new name, as well as new credit cards and bank accounts. He also went to the DMV with a copy of his marriage certificate, as newly married women often do, and paid $20 for a new driver's license.
"It was easy. When the government issues you a new passport you figure you're fine," Lazaro said.
But more than a year later, Dinh says he received a letter from the DMV in December accusing him of "obtaining a driving license by fraud." His license was suspended.
Dinh called to complain, but was told he would need to go to court and change his name legally, a lengthy process that can cost up to $400 in fees.
When he explained he was changing his name due to marriage, he was reportedly told, "that only works for women."
Lazaro's lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, told Reuters that this case raises important issues for gay marriage.
"Apparently the state of Florida clings to the outdated notion that treats women as an extension of a man," Kuvin said. "If Lazaro isn't allowed to change his name, what is going to happen when a gay couple seeks a name change?"
Nine states enable a man to change his name upon marriage: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota, Kuvin said. Florida has no such law, even though the state's DMV website does not specify gender in relation to name changes.
Following a DMV hearing, Lazaro was issued a Final Order on Jan. 14 confirming that his license was properly suspended for fraud, according to Reuters. He is appealing the order but will not drive in the meantime.
"I'm being treated like a highway criminal," Lazaro said.
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