An appeals court says a divorced Utah woman must have her ex-husband's permission to use her maiden name on her driver's license, but she still disagrees and may take her battle to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wendy Jean Jorgensen suffered a setback in a three-year battle recently when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that she couldn't have her maiden name put on her driver's license until she gets her divorce decree amended to include the name change.Jorgensen decided to revert to her maiden name - Alldredge - after her divorce. But when she went to renew her driver's license, the clerk told her she couldn't have her maiden name printed on her driver's license unless use of that name was specified in a divorce decree.
Since Jorgensen failed to request renewed use of her maiden name at the time of the divorce, Utah law now requires her to get her ex-husband's permission to amend the divorce decree to change her name.
"The mere fact that she would have to ask him is offensive," said Brian Barnard, Jorgensen's attorney.
Jorgensen sued the Utah Driver License Division, saying the department's policy discriminates against divorced women by treating them differently than men or newly married women.
"After marriage, all a woman has to do is show her current driver's license and her marriage license to get her married name put on her driver's license," Barnard said. "Yet the marriage license just says that Mary Smith now has married John Doe. Nowhere does it say Mary Smith can now use the name of Doe. Yet the new name is accepted out of custom.
"We are saying the exact same thing should apply when someone gets divorced. Even though the divorce decree doesn't say a woman gets her maiden name back, it should be treated the same way a marriage license is."
Two 10th Circuit judges disagreed. "A divorce decree without a specific name-changing provision is not an acceptable name change verification under the (Utah Driver License Division) policies," they wrote.
But Judge Monroe McKay dissented, saying the department's policy does discriminate against divorced women and must be changed. He wrote that if the department accepts a marriage certificate as proof of a name change, it must also accept a divorce decree as proof of a resumption of a maiden name.
"I can conceive of no legitimate interest which the state of Utah might have in making it simple for a woman to adopt a husband's name but difficult for her to shed it," he wrote.
McKay's vigorous and lengthy dissent prompted Barnard to consider taking the case further. "I'm going to talk with some experts in the area to see if this is the kind of thing the U.S. Supreme Court would be interested in hearing."
Barnard may also ask the 10th Circuit to reconsider its opinion. He has 60 days to decide, he said.