Florida man's license restored as state drops fraud allegation
MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida's Department of Motor Vehicles said on Tuesday it had lifted the suspension of a South Florida man's driving license after it accused him of fraud for adopting his wife's last name.
"It was a mistake on our part," Florida DMV spokesperson Kirsten Olsen-Doolan said. "The suspension will be lifted."
The DMV stripped Boca Raton real estate investor Lazaro Dinh, 40, of his license in December after he changed his last name from Sopena to help his wife's Vietnamese family perpetuate their family surname.
His wife, Hanh Dinh, 32, has four sisters and came to the United States in 1990, after a family odyssey involving living in refugee camps and being separated from her father for seven years.
Lazaro Dinh was initially issued a new license with his wife's last name after presenting his 2011 marriage certificate at his local DMV office, just as newly married women are required to do when they adopt their husbands' names.
More than a year later, he received a letter from Florida's DMV accusing him of "obtaining a driving license by fraud" and advising him that his license would be suspended.
When he explained to the DMV that he was changing his name due to marriage, he was told "that only works for women," Dinh said. The suspension was upheld in an order issued on January 14 after a hearing in which Dinh produced his marriage certificate and a new U.S. passport with the updated name.
Olsen-Doolan said the DMV had spoken to Dinh to let him know that his license had been mistakenly suspended and "either a man or a woman can change their name" on their driving license.
"We are doing some training to make sure understand that it can be done either way," she added.
Dinh phoned Reuters to say he had been issued a new license on Tuesday after presenting his passport at a DMV office.
"I'm still bothered that it took so long and it took so much brain damage to fix. Now I want to change the law so it's clear for the next man."
Dinh's lawyer, Spencer Kuvin of Cohen & Kuvin in West Palm Beach, said that while it was unusual for a man to adopt his wife's name, Dinh's case raised important issues for the future of gay marriage.
Only a few states have made their marriage name change policy gender neutral, Kuvin said. Florida has no law, although the DMV's website does not specify gender.
According to Kuvin, nine states have laws that specifically allow a man to change his name upon marriage: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota.
(Editing by Tom Brown, Cynthia Johnston and Dan Grebler)