Lazaro Sopena decided to change his last name after he married Hanh Dinh! Why?
To help his wife's Vietnamese family perpetuate their family surname! Sopena is now fighting the state's Department of Motor Vehicles after it suspended his driving license on grounds of fraud.
Shortly after their marriage, Lazaro Dinh obtained a new passport and Social Security card and changed his bank account and credit cards before applying to update his drivers license.
"It was an act of love. I have no particular emotional ties to my last name," He said.
His wife, Hanh Dinh, has 4 sisters and came to the U.S. in 1990, after a family odyssey involving living in refugee camps and being separated from her father for 7 years.
Lazaro Dinh was initially issued a new license after presenting his marriage certificate at his local DMV office and paying a $20 fee, just as newly married women are required to do when they adopt their husband's name.
"It was easy. When the government issues you a new passport you figure you're fine," he said.
More than a year later Dinh received a letter from Florida's DMV last December accusing him of "obtaining a driving license by fraud," and advising him that his license would be suspended at the end of the month. Ironically, it was addressed to Lazaro Dinh.
"I thought it was a mistake," he said.
When he explained he was changing his name due to marriage, he was told 'that only works for women,'" he said.
"Apparently the state of Florida clings to the out-dated notion that treats women as an extension of a man," said Lazaro's lawyer.
Only a few states have made their marriage name change policy gender neutral, the lawyer said. In Florida's case it has no law, although the DMV's website does not specify gender.
According to Kuvin, 9 states enable a man to change his name upon marriage: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota.
"I don't understand. I'm being treated like a highway criminal," said Lazaro Dinh, who said he has a perfect driving record and now is struggling to carry out his job, begging his wife and friends for rides.