Virginia judge U-turns on lesbian couple’s name change

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A judge in the US state of Virginia has allowed a lesbian couple to change their names – shortly after ruling that they couldn’t.

Leigh Anne Ruth Hunter and Jennifer Beth Surber, who have been together for eight years and have a baby daughter, asked Judge C Randall Lowe to change both of their second names to ‘Hunter Surber’.

Judge Lowe originally granted Ms Surber’s name change, but denied Ms Hunter permission in November.

He argued that Ms Hunter had requested the name change for a “fraudulent purpose” – that is, to pretend that the couple were married.

He wrote that Ms Hunter and her partner intended to “hold themselves out as a married couple,” but that Virginia bans gay marriage.

The couple, of Washington County, approached the American Civil Liberties Union for help.

In his reconsidered opinion, issued last week, Judge Lowe wrote that “the court finds the name change would not be made for a fraudulent purpose and reverses the prior findings of the court.”

The name changes will take effect soon, after he signs a final order.

ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis said: “The Virginia law banning certain legal relationships between same-sex couples creates confusion for judges and feeds the deeply rooted prejudices that still haunt gay men and lesbians in this state.

“We’re pleased that Judge Lowe voluntarily agreed to rehear this case and that he listened to our arguments. It’s a good sign when public officials are open-minded about the rights of the LGBT community.”