Another Inconvenient Truth: Joint-Hyphenated Married Names Are A Hassle In Most States

06/11/2007 08:02 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I'm all for the right for married couples (or even unmarried ones) to assume mutually hyphenated last names.

Unfortunately, the statutory right to do so is available in only six U.S. states.

What do I mean by "mutually hyphenated last names?"

I'm not really referring to the hyphenated last names that await newly married women in some cultures.

I'm referring to the right of both of the individuals who are being joined in marriage to take keep their last name, assume the last name of their spouse, and hyphenate each. So if Tina Johnson marries Kevin Jones, you'd have Tina Johnson-Jones and Kevin Johnson-Jones. Or Jones-Johnson.

This right should be available to same-sex couples as well.

While there is infinitely more complexities in a relationship than surname feng shui, I think that mutually hyphenated last names tell the world that neither of you are each other's property. Instead, you are joined together, as love should have it.

Now to the legalities. Sometimes the hurdles are omission-informed. Other times they are statutory.

I first learned about this via an entry on a Blog called Chad Unlimited. As a doimestic violence prevention counselor in Sacramento, Chad must be presumed to know a good bit about the linchpins of mutual love and respect that good marriages should have.

Chad points to an article by Bailey Porter in Ms. Magazine. I'll block-quote from it now:

"When New Yorkers Elizabeth Batton and Garrett Sorenson married last August, they wanted to adopt each other's last name as a second surname, making them the Batton Sorensons. But there was no option on their marriage license application to do so. Elizabeth could easily change her surname to Sorenson, or to Batton-Sorenson, but for a man to adopt his wife's name is another story.

"That's because although New York is one of only six states in the U.S. that recognize a statutory right for men to take their wives' last name, the couple married in Kentucky, where no such law exists. Under most states' laws, if a man wants to take his wife's name he must petition the court, advertise in a newspaper and pay hundreds of dollars in fees. A woman needs only to fill out a marriage license application.

"California could soon become the seventh equitable name-change state, if a bill from state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma is successful. It' would give married spouses and domestic partners equal opportunity to take their surname of choice. 'It's about equality in relationships,"Ma says about the proposal, which would also change gender-biased language in current marriage statutes.

I agree. Your beloved is not your property. They are your equal. So if you both decide to carry names that strongly connote that equality, no government statute or excessive red tape should stand in your way.