Licenses, Discrimination and South Dakota

Since the beginning of 2010, South Dakota has implemented some fairly strict requirements for procuring a drivers license/ID card. Among other things, one has to provide a birth certificate or equivalent. Anyone who has had a name change (usually married women) have to show the legal documents for the name change(s).

Despite plenty of time, and well-publicized information about the new requirements, a number of people still are not prepared:

Five months after South Dakota implemented more stringent requirements for obtaining or renewing driver’s licenses, many people still are showing up at exam stations without the proper documents, and some even are saying the new policy is unfair to women.

Married women who took their spouse’s name seem to be having an especially difficult time complying with the Division of Motor Vehicles rules, and Karen Henjum of Harrisburg knows that problem firsthand. She had trouble getting her license in February.

“I think it’s discrimination against women. We’re the only ones that have to put up with this,” she said, referring to the fact that fewer men change their names during their lifetime.

State officials said this week that as many as 30 percent of the people seeking a driver’s license or identification card at the DMV are being turned away and told to come back with the proper documents.

I like how something becomes discrimination against women simply because if affects more women than men (for largely cultural reasons). You will forgive me, I trust, if I do not see this as discrimination but rather as the licensing entity attempting to determine if the person really is who she says she is.

If we are to have license/ID cards which properly reflect our identities for things such as voting, would we not want to ensure that it is difficult to get around the system?

My wife and I both recently renewed our licenses. It took me 17 minutes. It took my wife two tries because she left her marriage certificate home on the first trip. We realized it in the parking lot but knew the fault of forgetting lay entirely with us–and not with a discriminatory practice by the state. After all, we had both read the requirements ahead of time and understood what was required and why.

A little more personal responsibility in meeting these non-onerous requirements might go a very long way.

3 thoughts on “Licenses, Discrimination and South Dakota

  1. Wow, I didn’t realize you have to bring your marriage certificate now! I had to bring it in to get my name changed after our wedding, but I wouldn’t have thought of bringing it along just to get my licence renewed. I don’t see why they need to see you marriage certificate just to renew your licence. After all, I already had to bring it in once to get my name changed, so doesn’t it make sense that if I have an old licence with my married name on it, that means they’ve already verified my married last name?

    1. Rachel,

      They make you bring it because the last time you got your license, the paperwork was not verified as rigorously. After all, they don’t really care about your married name so much as they wish to be certain that whatever you are called now can be tied back to an actual birth certificate. At least you’ve only been married once. Some people have had to show 3 or 4 or more licenses–one for every time they’ve changed their name.

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