Nomenclature and the Problem of Same-Sex Marriage

by Jason Stotts

One interesting problem that is going to arise if gay marriage ever becomes legal (as it should be) is the problem of the family name.  Let’s just all agree right now that the tradition is sexist, but it makes the issue of what last name the family has easy to decide and makes doing genealogy convenient.

Personally, I’m against hyphenation of last names for the new family.  Imagine Joe Smith and Jane Doe get married and hyphenate to Joe and Jane Smith-Doe.  Their child John Smith-Doe grows up and gets married to Mary Kline, they hyphenate their name to be (Smith-Doe)-Kline.  Alternatively, they could combine and then hyphenate to form Smithdoe-Kline.  Absurd!  My real objection to hyphenation is that when two people make a new family and have a hyphenated last name, it’s almost as if they’re planning on their marriage failing and they don’t want to commit to just one name that they’ll have to change in the future.  Instead of coming together to actually make a family, they are just two representatives of different families acting together.  To me it makes more sense, if neither partner is willing to take the others name, to pick a new last name.  That’s right, just pick one.  At least this way kids won’t have to be able to spell 20+ character hyphenated last names, let alone try to write them on standardized tests!

But what are gay couples going to do about a last name?  Let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before this somewhat silly abstract issue becomes a real issue for people.  Gays should have the right to marry whoever they choose.  When they do, they’ll have to have some method for picking names.  The way I see it, they only have a number of options:

1. Take the last name of partner A.
2. Take the last name of partner B.
3. Hyphenate to A-B.
4. Combine names to make AB
5. Take some new name C.

I’m not really suggesting any practical solutions here, but just pointing out a problem that is going to arise.  If anyone has any good suggestions for how gays should pick their married last name, feel free to chime in.  Also, does anyone from a place that allows gay marriage know if their is a convention already in place about this?  I’d be interested to know if there was and how it came about.

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