Jesse is known as Jesse Melot to a number of entities including the federal government, his bank, and his insurance provider, among others. He and his partner Derek Melot decided to take their long-term relationship to the next level by getting legally hitched in New York last October, after which Jesse decided to take his partner’s surname as a symbol of their commitment.
“I love him, and I think that’s the best gift you can give someone,” Jesse told MLive. “This is for real. I love you. I want to take your last name.”
With his name legally changed in the eyes of most, Jesse took his marriage certificate to his local Secretary of State branch office in order to obtain a driver’s license with his new last name. That’s where, according to Jesse, he was unjustly profiled as a gay man by branch workers who assumed he was in a same-sex relationship.
Under any other circumstance, married people can legally change the name on their driver’s license by simply presenting their official marriage certificate, which by the way, does not indicate the gender of parties involved. Employees at two separate branch offices denied Jesse a new driver’s license simply because his partner’s first name indicated that the marriage was between two men.
They are “allowed” to do this (ugh) because a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment bans same-sex marriage in the state of Michigan. Couples in the state have experienced stress related to the issue since SCOTUS overturned DOMA this summer—they’ve been living in a “legal limbo” ever since.
But this isn’t a matter of the legality of same-sex marriage in Michigan, says Jesse. It’s a matter of being discriminated against on superficial grounds. “It’s utter frustration,” he said. “If I had been a woman going to change my last name, it wouldn’t have been an issue. They’re profiling at the counter. My certificate doesn’t say ‘same-sex.’ It just says marriage. But they see the names, and they’re discriminating against me.”
Department spokesman Fred Woodhams has since claimed branch workers are not directed to be “on the lookout” for gay couples, but have the right to refuse service based on “anything that would lead the staff person to believe it is a same-sex marriage.”
“I wasn’t asking them to recognize my marriage,” Jesse said. “I was asking them to recognize a legally-binding document, period. I’m not trying to circumvent the system to get the state to recognize my marriage. All I’m looking for is my … license.”
We recommend just sitting tight, Jesse. You’ll have equal rights when Michigan gets slapped in the face next month.