When Lazaro Sopena got married, he took his wife’s last name as “an act of love,” he said; in return, the state of Florida suspended his driver’s license for fraud, according to Reuters.
The real estate investor, who was born in Cuba but moved to the U.S. in 1984, told the news service that he didn’t have “emotional ties” to his last name. So, he offered to change his name after marrying Hanh Dinh in 2011 to help his wife’s Vietnamese family sustain their surname.
The 40-year-old was initially issued a new driver’s license when he went to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with his marriage license and $20 fee — the same requirements for a married woman when she changes her name on her license, should she choose, Reuters reported.
But more than a year later, he received a letter from the state accusing him of “obtaining a driving license by fraud” and told him that his license would be suspended. The letter was addressed to Lazaro Dinh.
Dinh called the Florida DMV office in Tallahassee to rectify the situation, according to Reuters, and was told to go to court first to change his name legally — a process that takes several months and has a $400 filing fee.
When he explained he was changing his name because he had gotten married, the DMV’s answer: “That only works for women.”
Dinh’s lawyer told Reuters: “Apparently the state of Florida clings to the outdated notion that treats women as an extension of a man.”
Only nine states have gender-neutral laws pertaining to marriage surname changes allowing a man to change his name after marriage in the same manner as a woman: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota, according to Salon. Florida has no such law, but as Reuters noted, the DMV’s website doesn’t specify gender.
On Jan. 14, the DMV confirmed that Dinh’s license was suspended for fraud.
However, the Florida DMV eventually relented and lifted the suspension of Dinh’s license on Tuesday. “It was a mistake on our part,” a spokesperson said.