Oddly Enough

Los Angeles man wins right to use wife's last name

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - All Michael Buday wanted to do was take the last name of his wife, Diana Bijon, when they married.

Michael Bijon (L) and his wife Diana pose with their marriage license at a news conference in Santa Monica, California May 5, 2008. REUTERS/Jill Serjeant

But it took two years, a lawsuit alleging sex discrimination and a change in California law before he picked up his new drivers license in the name of Michael Bijon on Monday.

“It was personal. I feel much closer to (Diana’s) father than I do mine. She asked me to take her name and I thought it would be very simple. I never imagined the state would make it so difficult,” Michael Bijon, 31, told reporters.

He discovered it would take a $350 fee, court appearances, a public announcement and mounds of paperwork to make a change on his driving license that is routine for women who marry.

After months of frustration, the Los Angeles computer programmer and his ER nurse wife Diana, 29, took their problem to the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

A double barrel name would have been no problem, nor would Diana and Michael deciding to each keep their birth names. But California and some 40 other U.S. states provided no place on the marriage license application, and driving license, for the groom to choose the bride’s surname.

“Women have fought for so long for equal rights and it feels like this is part of that fight,” said Diana Bijon. “When we got married, the law basically said, ‘Don’t be silly, only a woman can change her name when she gets married.’”

“I am really, really proud of him. Not many men would do this,” she said.

A subsequent lawsuit led to a new California state law guaranteeing the rights of both married couples and registered domestic partners to choose whichever last name they prefer on their marriage and driving licenses.

“This disposes of the rule in California that the male surname is the marital name to the same trash bin where dowries were once tossed out,” said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the Southern California chapter of the ACLU.