L.A. man sues to take wife's last name
By Martin Kasindorf
, USA TODAY
Updated 1/12/2007 10:24 AM Mike Buday & Diana Bijon outside their
home in Marina del Rey in December.LOS ANGELES
Michael Buday is petitioning a federal judge for the right to take Diana Bijon's last name in marriage as easily as she could take his last name.
Bijon, 28, an emergency room nurse, asked her fianc้ to change his last name to preserve her father's family name because there are no sons. Buday, 29, a technical manager at an advertising firm, promised he would.
"I had a rough childhood with my father," he says. "We never really got along. Diana's father stepped up, gave me career advice. He's family."
Keeping his promise has been more onerous than Buday expected. A woman can choose her husband's name or her maiden name on a California marriage-license form after the couple pays a county application fee that ranges from $50 to $97. California and 43 other states provide no place on a marriage-license application for the groom to choose the bride's surname.
To officially change his name to hers and for future Social Security benefits, Buday says a man must pay a $320 court fee, advertise his intention in a newspaper for four weeks and get a judge's approval.
"The law makes it burdensome, if not close to impossible, to adopt the wife's name," says Mark Rosenbaum, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. "It reflects the archaic notion of a woman's subordinate place in the partnership."
The ACLU sued California and Los Angeles County on Dec. 15 to have the separate treatment of Buday and Bijon outlawed as gender discrimination and a denial of equal protection. The couple were married in August 2005 under their separate names after state and county agencies rebuffed them.
Six states Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota give either spouse the right to choose the other's last name.
A marrying couple that wants a combined or hyphenated name in California and most other states must go through the red tape of a court petition. That's the route Antonio Villar of Los Angeles took in 1987 when he and his wife, Corina Raigosa, combined their names as Villaraigosa. He's now mayor of the city.
A groom seldom asks to adopt his bride's name, says Myleta Miller, a clerk at Atlanta's Probate Court. No national statistics are kept, but Miller says she's seen "no more than five" such applications in six years on the job.
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Conny McCormack, named in the lawsuit, says her office uses a state-dictated form and will comply with any change judges or legislators might order.
"I certainly am in favor of the law
being clarified," McCormack says.