The second problem is the plain empirical fact that you don’t see men deciding to give up their last names as a symbol of their love. If the niceness of the gesture is its most salient feature, then you’d expect to see men and women making it at roughly comparable rates. But you don’t. In fact, you almost never hear about a man taking his wife’s name. Almost never:
All Michael Buday wanted to do was marry Diana Bijon and live happily ever after, with one tiny twist: He agreed to take her last name.So rare is the practice of the groom adopting the bride's name that the marriage paperwork doesn't even accommodate it.
Quickly, the couple were plunged into what they describe as a bureaucratic inequity that has sparked both a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and new legislation to alter marriage licenses.
Buday said California discriminates by making it easy for women to take their husband's name upon marriage, but not vice versa.
Their complaint, filed Dec. 15 in a Los Angeles federal court, says:
• Los Angeles County's marriage application provides a space for the bride to enter her married name, but not the groom.
It's no surprise, of course, that women change their last name far more often than men, but what did strike me was that a number of parties seem to have the conviction that the problem with LA County's application is that it discriminates against men. The Sacramento Bee, for instance, takes the following position:
The path to full gender equality is a long and tortuous one, and it turns out that it's not only women who face discrimination.That seems like a peculiar way of looking at the situation. It seems to me that the underlying problem is discrimination against women, not against men. The reason that Buday can't change his name on his marriage application isn't that the government especially cares about whether he does so. Rather, it's that society and the government have conspired to pressure women into getting rid of their family names for the sake of men.
When Buday sought to change his name to that of his fiancée, Diana Bijon, he was confronted by a four-step process requiring him to petition the state, pay a $32 application fee (in addition to the $70 marriage license fee), publish the change in a local newspaper for four weeks (which in another case cost a man $475), then go to court to get a judge's blessing.
Buday was not amused. Neither was the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed suit in federal court on behalf of the now-married couple, charging that Buday is a victim of discrimination under the Constitution's 14th Amendment. Six states allow men to change their names as easily as women can. California should do the same.
In other words, there's a real asymmetry here in the way the government treats the sexes. The source of that asymmetry, though, isn't that the government is forcibly preventing men from doing something highly desirable, it's that the government is helping to force women to do something undesirable. It can't be right to say that men are the victims of society's unreasonable demands here, can it? Men are just getting an unfair assist from the state in their own misogynistic project.