Married Gays Denied Fla. Drivers' Licenses

By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 01, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Married couples can often drive each other crazy, but this married couple won't be legally driving anywhere in Florida.

Daniel and Scott Wall-DeSousa were married in New York last December and had their names legally changed to a hyphenated form of their original surnames. But, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, when the Palm Bay, Florida, couple obtained drivers' licenses with their new married names, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles canceled them.

Why won't Florida let these married gays drive?

No Gay Marriage Recognized in Fla.

Florida is one of a shrinking minority of states in which gay marriage is neither recognized nor legally available. And while the couple is recognized by the Social Security Administration as the Wall-DeSousas, the married men have now filed a lawsuit to force the Florida DMV to do the same.

Gay marriage advocates in Florida have had victories in both federal and state courts, but as of Monday, the law still permits the state to refuse to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. The Florida department which canceled the men's licenses mailed each a letter stating that out-of-state same-sex marriage certificates "are not recognized as valid in Florida" and thus "not considered as a legal basis for a name change on a Florida driver's license."

The federal government has acknowledged all same-sex marriages as legal after the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013. But DOMA still allows states like Florida to enforce their own marriage laws and to ignore the legal status of same-sex out-of-state marriages.

Drive, but Only Under Unmarried Name

Florida official gave the Palm Bay couple two choices: reapply for licenses with their former names or lose driving privileges. According to the Sentinel, Daniel Wall-DeSousa chose the latter, cutting his license in half (per the department's instructions) and mailing it back.

Although the Wall-DeSousas are pursuing an answer to their issue in court, other gay couples have worked around similar scenarios. Connie Wilson was able to obtain a driver's license in Texas bearing her married name -- despite having been married to her wife in California -- because she presented a U.S. passport with her current married name.

With the U.S. government honoring gay marriages performed in a majority of states, an updated U.S. passport may be a temporary work-around for gay spouses to get drivers' licenses.

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