Answer to a question from a reader

Can my partner’s surname be changed to my surname when we get married as a same-sex couple?

The short answer

Yes, both partners in a civil union can choose what surnames they will be known by.

The long answer

The Civil Union Register allows both spouses to choose the surnames by which they will be referred after their marriage, and Part E of the Civil Union Register allows them to indicate the surnames they wish to be recorded in the population register.

All the rights and duties of heterosexual marriage now apply to same-sex marriages too, which, as Chris McConnachie pointed out in this thesis, means that the Births and Deaths Registration Act also applies to same-sex unions. But, he explains, there are contradictions between Section 26(1) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act and the Civil Union Act.

Section 26(1) of the Births and Deaths Registration Act says that no individual can assume any other name than the one recorded in the population register, except that a married woman can change her name to her husband’s. A heterosexual man would have to apply to the Director-General of Home Affairs for permission to change his name. So, says McConnachie, if the Civil Union Act gives same-sex couples the right to choose their surname, it is in conflict with Section 26(1) of the Births and Deaths Registration. 

This could be problematic down the line with passports, for example, if this is not sorted out by the legislature. The Department of Home Affairs website states that, “Passports are issued in accordance with your names as they appear in the National Population Register (NPR) at the time of your application. Any changes to your names must be applied for, finalised and recorded in the NPR before you submit your passport application.” 

But there is no problem with your partner taking your surname when you marry.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Feb. 28, 2023, 1:25 p.m.

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