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Massachusetts Married Couple Gets the Runaround in Florida

by Sue O’Connell

Bay Windows

Thursday April 19, 2012

Changing your name to your spouse's has always been a hassle. Years ago, you'd have to appear in a Massachusetts court and get a legal name change after your marriage. Passports, driver's licence, library card, credit cards; many changes.

For David Scott Duseau (nee' Burris), the usual paper trail to adopt his husband's surname has been flavored with the sting of discrimination. "It's a slap in the face," Duseau said in a phone interview with Bay Windows. "I tried to follow the rules- that just doesn't work here."

The "here" is Naples, Florida. Florida has an anti-marriage amendment that defines marriage as the "legal union of one man and one wife." Florida is one of 30 states with anti-marriage amendments on the books.

Massachusetts made things easier for spouses to change their names-court appearances were skipped and the marriage certificate served as a legal name change document. And therein lies the rub: Florida doesn't recognize Duseau's marriage, so it won't recognize the marriage certificate. He has no legal name change document.

"I told them I understand that they do not recognize me as being married and I'm not asking them to," Duseau wrote in an email. "I'm just asking that they accept my marriage license as documentation that my name was legally changed."

Bruce Bell, who runs the legal info line at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, notes that couples should expect difficulty in "any state where your marriage is not recognized."

Duseau, who is married to Paul Duseau, just wants to get a Florida driver's license.

"I feel like I'm committing identity fraud," he said, noting that his Massachusetts driver's license calls him David Scott Duseau, even though the state of Florida calls him David Scott Burris.

Even the Florida bureaucrats are confused: Kelly Pacchioli of the Governor's Office of Citizen's Service and Kenneth E. Ward Consumer Advocate, Division of Motor Services each sent a letter addressed to "Mr. Duseau" who, according to Florida law, doesn't exist.

Mr. Duseau has taken his plight to the airwaves of Florida TV and his next steps include examining his legal options. Currently, under Florida law, the only way he can change his surname to Duseau (which, again, is already his legal name in Massachusetts) is to go to court.

One thing is certain, Mr. Duseau will have his day in court, one way or the other.

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