Florida — A newly married man decided to take on his wife’s last name in a charitable “act of love,” in order to carry on her family’s cultural name. The Department of Motor Vehicles didn’t see it as anything charitable, however, and accused the newlywed of fraud, claiming that changing a surname because of marriage is “just for women.”
Real estate investor Lazaro Sopena offered to change his name after his 2011 marriage to wife Hanh Dinh in order to help his wife’s Vietnamese family perpetuate their family surname. Shortly after their marriage, Lazaro Dinh followed the steps that most newly married women follow to make the change from Miss to Mrs: he obtained a new passport, and a new Social Security card. He changed his bank account and his credit cars.
Then he applied for his new drivers license.
“It was an act of love. I have no particular emotional ties to my last name,” said Lazaro Dinh, 40, who was born in Cuba and came to the United States as a child. His wife, Hanh, 32, has four sisters. They came to the United States in 1990 after a family journey involving living in refugee camps and being separated form their father for seven years. Lazaro allegedly wanted to honor that name by passing it on to his children.
Lazaro Dinh was initially issued a new passport after presenting his marriage certificate at his local DMV office. He paid the fee, just as mewly married women are required to do when taking on their husband’s last name.
“It was easy. When the government issues you a new passport you figure you’re fine,” he recalls.
More than a year later, however, Dinh received a letter from the DMV, stating that he has obtained “a driving license by fraud.” He was told that his license would by suspended. The letter, ironically, was addressed to Lazaro Dinh. “I thought it was a mistake,” he said.
But it was no mistake. Lazaro called the DMV and was told that had to go to court and legally change his name, a process that takes months and costs around $400.
When he explained he was changing his name due to marriage, he was allegedly told “that only works for women.”
Lazaro’s lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, retorts, “Apparently the state of Florida clings to the out-dated notion that treats women as an extension of a man.” He adds, “If Lazaro isn’t allowed to change his name, what is going to happen when a gay couple seeks a name change?”
Following a DMV hearing, Dinh was issued a Final Order on January 14 “confirming that his license had been properly suspended for fraud.”
He is now appealing that order, but is following the law and won’t get behind the wheel.
“I don’t understand. I’m being treated like a highway criminal,” said Dinh. Although he has a perfect driving record, he’s now having to hitch rides with friends to get to and from work.
Lazaro will be bumming rides until his appeal is heard.
[Image via Shutterstock]