The state of Nebraska told Sue Stroesser she could not have a driver’s license for the first time in 35 years. That’s because her driver’s license was previously under the name Sue Kirchofer, and the state refuses to recognize her name change because it would mean recognizing her same-sex marriage from neighboring state Iowa.
Sue married Mary Stroesser back in 2009 after same-sex marriage first became legal in Iowa. They’ve been together 30 years and are raising two young sons, and Sue even had worked in Omaha before the family officially moved across the border from Council Bluffs. She took her valid Iowa driver’s license to the DMV to get a new Nebraska license, but because she previously had a Nebraska license under her maiden name, she had to provide proof of her name change. When she presented her Iowa marriage certificate, the staffers informed her they could not accept it because the state does not recognize it.
Sue Stroesser’s legal name is listed on her Social Security card, her passport, and credit cards, but Nebraska is requiring her to pay the costs to go back to court to have her name changed legally in Nebraska. She told the Omaha World-Herald how surprised she was by the discrimination: “I have a Nebraska state license to practice in my health care profession. 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?”
The quandary has complicated Stroesser’s ability to open a new bank account and change her car insurance, though the companies have been understanding of her circumstances.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act last summer, it left intact a provision of the law that prevented states from having to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Though the federal government has since guaranteed most federal marriage benefits to couples regardless of where they live after they legally marry, states can still deny them recognition. This has created other complications, such as in Virginia and other states, where couples were forced to file two separate tax forms — one telling the federal government that they are married and one telling the state that they are single.