Thursday, October 27, 2011

Application for social security card recognizes possibility of same-sex parents, but...

A same-sex couple will no longer have to puzzle over filling out an application for a child's social security card.  Where it used to call for "mother" and "father," it now asks about "mother/parent" and "father/parent."  But there is a catch.  The "mother/parent" space asks for name AT BIRTH, while the "father/parent" space does not.  Would it be so hard to ask for the name at birth of both parents?  Husbands do sometimes change their names when they marry.  A student of mine last year wrote a paper on this issue as a result of difficulty he had effectuating a name change when he took his wife's name at marriage. (If you are curious why he did this, well, her name had great meaning to her within her culture, and he was fine changing his name to hers and giving that name to their children.)  And since women do not always change their names, those who have not changed their names will not feel singled out for a reminder that most women do. And...with 40% of births to unmarried women, a lot of mothers apply for a social security card for a child without a second parent.  The "name at birth" instruction to women only surely reminds them that they were supposed to be married (and change their name) before the child was born.  And, finally, same-sex couples as well as straight couples, sometimes take a new name for themselves and their child.  Then each had a different name at birth.

I want all these parental possibilities to appear equally appropriate on our government forms.  Too much to ask?

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