For Nontraditional Names’ Sake: A Call to Reform the Name-Change Process for Marrying Couples

In a large number of states, women are encouraged to take their husbands’ surnames at marriage by being offered an expedited name-change process that is shorter, less expensive, and less invasive than the statutory process that men must complete. If a couple instead decides to take an altogether-new name at marriage, the vast majority of states require that each spouse complete the longer statutory process. This name-change system emerged from a long history of naming as a way for men to dominate women. This Note emphasizes the need for name-change reform, arguing that the current system perpetuates antiquated patriarchal values and violates the United States Constitution. By allowing both spouses to change their names on their marriage certificate without any legal incentive for choosing one name over another — an approach currently used by Minnesota, Iowa, and Massachusetts — states could effectively address these problems.