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How Do Same-Sex Couples Choose a Last Name? Here’s How to Do It!

15 February 2023

A person showing a blank name tag has yet to choose a last name

Same-sex couples have the exact same legal rights as heterosexual couples in terms of deciding last names for marriage. Because same-sex couples are not allowed to get married in many countries, the reasons behind their choice of the last name may be more meaningful. In addition, each state has different laws regarding how the surname should be changed if both partners decide to do so. 

If you’re getting married, now’s a good time to start thinking about what last name each of you will use after the wedding. Here are some things you should do:

Know the Laws

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that all states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere in the country. However, different state laws treat same-sex marriages differently.  In some states, a court order is required for a name change. In others, you may be able to simply fill out a form or petition.Sometimes there’s no requirement at all. For instance, California lets gay and lesbian couples use each other’s names after getting married, but in Alabama, you’d need a court order. 

If you’re confused about the laws where you live or you think you’re facing discrimination, we recommend consulting a legal professional before changing your name. They may be able to provide advice on how to legally change your name or help with any problems you might face.

While you may be unsure of how to proceed with your name change, you should know that there are also name change service providers that welcome mailed pictures of a couple’s marriage certificate. They will provide you with  information about whether you can get your desired name change. You will be responsible for confirming that your state’s laws permit name changes.

A judge bangs the wooden gavel and accepts the same-sex couple’s request to choose a last name

Take These Considerations Into Account

While there are no hard and fast rules about how to choose a new last name for a same-sex couple, there are some things to consider.

Same-sex couples need to talk openly about values, identity, family, and other issues before deciding how to handle last names. Unlike opposite-sex couples who are more likely to follow tradition, same-sex couples may face unique challenges that can be eased by having these intentional conversations. 

Some same-sex couples view sharing a last name as an added measure of safety in case of emergencies, while others feel that sharing a last name gives their marriage more credibility and more legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Yet others make a conscious decision about what they feel is better for their children if ever they plan to have children or adopt in the future.

A lack of precedent for LGBTQ couples might make this decision trickier. You want to be sure that the name you choose fits you as well as possible, but you also need to ensure your decision is one  that works for both of you.

Research Your Options

With same-sex marriages now recognized by all 50 states, many people are looking at options regarding changing their last names after getting married. There are several ways this can be done. 

A laptop, a cup of coffee, a notepad, a pen, and a mobile phone are used to research how same-sex couples choose a last name

Hyphenating Last Names

Hyphenated last names are a popular choice for LGBTQ couples who wish to share a common surname while maintaining their individual family names. It’s also a popular choice for couples who want their offspring to have both surnames. 

Both partners must undergo the name change process. When the last name is too long, it is common for them to cut off the second last name if there isn’t enough space, which makes the order of the names important.

Sharing a Last Name

We all understand that taking and sharing your husband’s last name is rooted in a patriarchal, gender-based history of marriage. Same-sex couples often choose to share a last name because they want to adapt to these traditional practices. 

For same-sex couples in which one partner decides to take the other’s last name, this choice is not based on gender alone. It might just be that one person has a nicer-sounding name. Or there may be a variety of sentiments attached to one name that the couple prefers. Sharing a name is helpful because it may make things easier for couples logistically and may simplify paperwork.

Sticking to Their Name

There are many reasons why couples decide to opt-out of changing their names after marriage. For some, it’s simply because they want to maintain the same name throughout their lives, and the decision to do so is part of establishing themselves as equal partners. 

Others may decide to skip the official name change because they want to avoid having to go through the process of updating documents and acclimating to a new name. However, if you choose to skip the name change, you must decide whose name to use if you have children.

Choosing a New Last Name

Some couples want a different last name because they want something that will sound better than their current one. Some are inspired by a celebrity’s last name or a character in a television show. It’s a popular option for those who want to have a last name that is unique but memorable.

The letters C,H,A,N,G,E written on cubes

Weddings are a great celebration of commitment and union, but they’re also a fantastic opportunity to make sure that everyone involved feels free to be themselves. You may choose to legally change your last name, but if you’re both comfortable with your current names, there’s no reason why you need to. And if neither of you can agree on whether you should change your names, then you certainly shouldn’t feel pressured to do so.

Whatever your reason, you should make sure that you understand what the implications are before making such a big decision.


What last name do you want to use after you get married? Share and send it to [email protected]

a gay couple nearly kissing at their wedding

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