For the second time in three months, Washington County circuit court judge allows a same-sex couple to share last name after ACLU intercedes.

Abingdon, VA – A Washington County Circuit Court judge who had previously ruled that a lesbian could not adopt the last name of her same-sex partner, but then reversed himself after the ACLU provided legal representation, has now reversed himself again in a separate case, this time allowing a previously rejected name change for a gay couple.
The judge’s ruling was issued on April 27.
ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg represented Michael Evan Dye and Brian Keith Justice, who petitioned Judge C. Randall Lowe to permit them to legally share Dye-Justice as their surname.  Lowe found that Dye and Justice‘s request violated the Virginia law prohibiting same-sex marriage or other legal arrangements that approximate marriage, because it fraudulently presented the couple as married.
Glenberg argued that Dye and Justice merely wanted their names to reflect their committed relationship as a couple and that the First and Fourteenth Amendments protected their right to change their names in the same way as heterosexual couples.
“This is yet another example of how the Virginia law banning many legal relationships between same-sex couples has a very real effect on the gay and lesbian community,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.  “We’re pleased that Judge Lowe changed his mind, but none of this would have been necessary if the law in Virginia treated gay men and lesbians in committed relationships the same as everyone else.”
Virginia law allows individuals to change their names, but they must first petition the circuit court, which may reject the request if it is for fraudulent purposes.
In the earlier case, Leigh Anne Ruth Hunter and her partner, Jennifer Beth Surber, sought a name change from Judge Lowe.  Both Hunter and Surber wanted to use Hunter as their middle name and Surber as their last name.
Judge Lowe originally granted Surber’s name change, but denied Hunter’s.  The judge held that Hunter sought a name change in order for “the petitioner and her partner to hold themselves out as a married couple.”  For that reason, the judge ruled that the name was requested “for a fraudulent purpose.” After the judge granted a rehearing on the case and allowed the ACLU to argue on Surber and Hunter’s behalf, the name change was allowed.

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022

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