CORRECTED-Florida man accused of fraud after name change in 'act of love'

David Adams
Reuters Middle East

(In 10th paragraph, correct quote to read "women" instead of


* Lazaro Sopena adopted his wife's name after they married

* Issued a new passport and Social Security number

* Florida officials suspended driving license

MIAMI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - A newly married South Florida man

who opted to take his wife's last name is fighting the state's

Department of Motor Vehicles after it suspended his driving

license on grounds of fraud.

Real estate investor Lazaro Sopena offered to change his

name following his 2011 marriage to Hanh Dinh in order to help

his wife's Vietnamese family perpetuate their family surname.

Shortly after their marriage, Lazaro Dinh obtained a new

passport and Social Security card and changed his bank account

and credit cards before applying to update his drivers license.

"It was an act of love. I have no particular emotional ties

to my last name," said Dinh, 40, who was born in Cuba and came

to the United States at the age of 11 in 1984.

His wife, Hanh Dinh, 32, has four sisters and came to the

U.S. in 1990, after a family odyssey involving living in refugee

camps and being separated from her father for 7 years.

Lazaro Dinh was initially issued a new license after

presenting his marriage certificate at his local DMV office and

paying a $20 fee, just as newly married women are required to do

when they adopt their husband's name.

"It was easy. When the government issues you a new passport

you figure you're fine," he said.

More than a year later Dinh received a letter from Florida's

DMV last December accusing him of "obtaining a driving license

by fraud," and advising him that his license would be suspended

at the end of the month. Ironically, it was addressed to Lazaro


"I thought it was a mistake," he said.

But when he called the state DMV office in Tallahassee he

said he was told he had to go to court first in order to change

his name legally, a process that takes several months and has a

$400 filing fee.

When he explained he was changing his name due to marriage,

he was told 'that only works for women,'" he said.

"Apparently the state of Florida clings to the out-dated

notion that treats women as an extension of a man," said

Lazaro's lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, with Cohen & Kuvin in West Palm

Beach. While it was unusual for a man to seek to be considered

an extension on his wife, Dinh's case raised important issues

for gay marriage, he noted.

"If Lazaro isn't allowed to change his name, what is going

to happen when a gay couple seeks a name change?"

Only a few states have made their marriage name change

policy gender neutral, Kuvin said. In Florida's case it has no

law, although the DMV's website does not specify gender.

According to Kuvin, 9 states enable a man to change his name

upon marriage: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana,

Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota.

The Florida DMV did not respond to a request for comment.

Following a DMV hearing, Dinh was issued a Final Order on

Jan. 14 confirming that his license had been properly suspended

for fraud.

He is now appealing that order but has not dared get behind

the wheel.

"I don't understand. I'm being treated like a highway

criminal," said Dinh, who said he has a perfect driving record

and now is struggling to carry out his job, begging his wife and

friends for rides.

(Editing by Dan Grebler)

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