Nebraska Refuses To Recognize Married Lesbian's Legal Last Name
Sue Stroesser left a DMV in Omaha this week with tears but without recognition of the legal name she's had since 2009, which is when she married her partner Mary in neighboring Iowa.
The married couple and their kids moved to Omaha recently, only to find the rights they've had for half a decade evaporate at the snap of a finger. Sue attempted to obtain her legal ID card in mid-July only to be denied on account of the blemish on the state's reputation that is a ban on marriage equality, which passed into law in 2000.
Sue, who has a valid Iowa driver’s license, went to the DMV office July 14 to obtain a Nebraska license under her married name. She was told that because she had a previous Nebraska license under her maiden name, she needed to show the document that changed her name.
She returned with her Iowa marriage license, and staffers graciously told her she didn’t have to stand in line a second time. But a clerk checked with a supervisor and returned with the news: The Iowa marriage license is not valid in Nebraska, and so was not legal proof of her new name.
Sue’s legal remedy, she was told, was to go to court and have her name legally changed. Only then could she get a Nebraska driver’s license as Sue Stroesser.
That would be time-consuming and costly, but what’s most frustrating to Sue is that Sue Stroesser is who she is. Her Social Security card says so. Her passport says so, and so do her credit cards.
“I have a Nebraska state license to practice in my health care profession,” she said. “I work in Nebraska as a Stroesser. I have paid Nebraska taxes for three years as a Stroesser. And I’m denied a driver’s license?”
Her insurance company, bank and local Election Commission have all been understanding of the discrimination that's left Sue with dual identities and inconsistent government IDs. But she worries about the roadblocks that may lie ahead. As for their part, a DMV spokesperson explained that the protocol the clerks followed in denying Sue an ID with her legal name.
“We have to follow the Constitution,” the director said, “and can’t recognize a marriage license for two persons of the same gender.”
“At the core of my pain and shock,” Sue said, “is that I am from Omaha. I was born and raised here. These are my people, and these are Mary’s people. I am left feeling angry, sad and a little bit empty.”