By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
The Obama administration has changed course and will now allow same-sex couples to use their spouse’s surname when they apply for passports with the US State Department, a gay activist group said today in Boston.
A gay married couple, Al and Keith Toney, joined the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed during the Clinton administration, in federal court in Boston.
One issue the couple and GLAD raised was the State Department’s refusal to allow Keith Toney -- his name before marriage was Keith Fitzpatrick -- to seek a new passport under his spouse’s surname.
In a letter dated June 15, the US Justice Department notified GLAD and the Toneys that the prohibition has been stricken from federal rules. Keith Toney was invited to apply for a new passport and was also told the normal fees will be waived. He will file the paperwork June 22, GLAD said.
“Denying married same-sex couples the ability to have their married names on their passports not only puts them at risk in traveling with two identities, it demeans their marriages,” Mary L. Bonauto, lead counsel on the case, said in a statement issued by GLAD.
According to GLAD, Keith Fitzpatrick and Al Toney III were married in 2004 and jointly decided to change their name to Toney, in part, because Al had a daughter, Kayla, and the couple wanted to make certain they would all share the same name. Keith Toney easily changed the name on his Massachusetts driver’s license, but was blocked when he sought to make the same change on his US passport.
In a statement, Keith Toney said having identification with two different names made international travel difficult for him and his family. “We’re thrilled that we will no longer have to worry about being interrogated when we go through airport security, or anywhere else outside of the US simply because of a discrepancy in my legal identification documents,‘’ Keith Toney said in a statement.
The Toneys were among nine same-sex couples who are suing the federal government in US District Court in Boston seeking to have their rights as married couples recognized by all federal agencies, such as the Social Security Administration. The lawsuit remains active on those other issues.
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