In the business of everyday life, it’s sometimes easy for LGBT Texans to forget about the huge inequalities that they face due to state government. If you haven’t been fired because of your sexuality, you may not think it’s a problem for others, or just not feel the need to act strongly on the issue.
But this week, John Wright of the Texas Observer notes the story of one family’s struggle which hits painfully close to home. A Texas woman and legal, licensed driver in her former home state of California was denied the ability to obtain a Texas license, simply because her official state-issued marriage certificate revealed that she is LGBT…
After Connie Wilson married her partner of nine years in California last year, she took her wife’s last name, Wilson, which now appears on both her California driver’s license and her Social Security card, in addition to all of the couple’s financial and medical records.
This summer, the couple relocated to the Houston area with their three children for work. With her California driver’s license nearing expiration, Wilson took her documents to a DPS office in Katy last week to obtain a Texas driver’s license. When a DPS employee noticed that Wilson’s name didn’t match her birth certificate, she produced the couple’s California marriage license identifying her spouse as Aimee Wilson.
“Her only words to me were, ‘Is this same-[sex]?’” Connie Wilson recalled. “I remember hesitating for probably 10 seconds. I didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t want to lie, but I knew I was in trouble because I wasn’t going to be able to get a license.”
Wilson eventually responded that although California doesn’t differentiate, she happened to be married to a woman.
“She immediately told me, ‘You can’t use this to get your license. This doesn’t validate your last name. Do you have anything else?’” Wilson said. “She told me I would never get a license with my current name, that the name doesn’t belong to me.”
Texas has both a state statute and a constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages from other states. However, Wilson contends she isn’t asking DPS to recognize her marriage, but rather trying to obtain an accurate driver’s license reflecting her legal name according to the state of California and the U.S. government.
“I’ve been deprived the freedom to drive a vehicle once my current California driver’s license expires,” Wilson said. “I’m further being deprived the freedom to use air travel, make purchases that require a valid photo identification, seek medical attention for myself or my children, as well as other situations that would require proving who I am legally as an individual.”
Just so we are clear, California is just as much a part of the United States of America as any other state. Yet, according to Texas law, our DPS workers apparently have the right to discriminate between official documents from other states just based on the names listed. How is it possible that DPS workers accept one California marriage license as documentation, but then turn around and refuse another simply because the persons listed may be of the same sex?? This is absolute discrimination. You can be certain that Mrs. Wilson, with the help of Equality Texas and other groups, will pursue this issue to the fullest extent of the law, as they should.
Beyond discrimination, this action is a violation of the United States Constitution, under the “Privileges and Immunities Clause”. Here’s Article IV, Section II from the Articles of Confederation, via the Cornell University Law School Page…
The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.
A license is a legal privilege as given by a state. So for Texas to refuse recognition of a privilege granted in California is an act directly against the Constitution. This is an offense made all the worse due to direct discrimination committed by Texas DPS.