“Before I came out and was still on a path of planning to marry a man,” says Victoria, “I was pretty radical and said I’ll never change my name." But when Victoria Cunningham married Lita Grossman, in Washington D.C. in 2006, three years before same-sex marriage was legally recognized in the District, she was forced to reconsider. Finally, both wound up changing to a third surname.
Personal and professional considerations aside, for women entering heterosexual marriages, the last name decision often comes down to ideology. But for newlywed same-sex couples navigating their way through the thorny question of family nomenclature, there’s no tradition in place to buck or to follow. With the overturn of DOMA and an expanding geography of states legalizing same-sex marriage (nine plus the District of Columbia), it remains to be seen what naming trends will emerge as same sex-couples decide whether or not to use shared names to formally identify as units, and why.
Victoria and Lita first met in 2003 at a rally that Victoria — then working for Code Pink — helped organize. After meeting again a few months later when Lita was back in town, the two realized there was a spark. “It’s like that old joke about bringing a U-Haul on the second date,” says Victoria. “She moved in two months later.” In time they bought a house together, had a big wedding, and registered as domestic partners, a legal union that provided limited protections within the District but not beyond.