Tag Archives: marriage

Ask Uncle Quo: should I change my name when I get married?

Commenter RG asks:

Not relevant to this post, but curious to your thoughts: Debate is about a 26-28 year old woman who wants to keep her last name in marriage because of her professional identity. My response was to laugh, what identity do you have at that age? I said, sure there are a couple of hot shots – you came to mind – but I bet they could change their name to a peace symbol and still retain their professional identity. She’s not going into witness protection, FFS. curious what you think about name changes at marriage, reputation, and loss thereof? You seem like someone who would have considered it.

I wanna be like Cathy and answer random people’s questions on Sunday mornings!  In homage to Aunt Pythia I will answer as “Uncle Quo.”

Changing your name seems to me like it would be a massive gluteal agony.  Short answer, independent of any issues of professional identity:  Why would I ask my wife to do something I would never do myself in a million years?

Well, here’s one reason why:  there was a time and a place where not having the same name as your spouse was sufficiently weird that it carried with it its own long-term irritations.  But those days, in the social tranche where I hang out, are not just going, they are long, long gone.  As I said in the comments to the other thread, when I think about couples I know at UW, mostly in the “parents of young kids” demographic like me, it’s very hard for me to think of any who share a surname; the only example I can think of is a couple who both took a double surname (separated by a space, not a hyphen) with the wife’s original surname last.  When I think of couples I know in Madison outside the university, I do know some where the wife adopted the husband’s surname, but in each case they go by three names, no hyphen:  “firstname birthsurname newsurname.”

Professional identity:  in math, at any rate, of course this matters!  If you’re 28, you likely already have a Ph.D. and a couple of papers out, maybe you’re finishing a postdoc and you’re about to apply for tenure-track jobs, you’re going to be on a list of 400 applicants and you want someone on the hiring committee to recognize your name and look at your file, and you’re suddenly going to change your name to something nobody’s ever heard?

WonderWomanHellNo

 

As for me and Tanya, we got married 10 years ago and never considered changing names.  We had some vague idea of using my last name “socially” but we quickly realized there was no social situation where that felt appropriate.  Occasionally we get invited to a bar mitzvah by my older relatives on which Tanya is called by my last name.  And I changed my middle name on the Harvard alumni list to her last name.  Our kids have two middle names, the second of which is Tanya’s surname, and their surname is mine.  Nobody seems to be confused about the fact that we’re a family.

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Scalia was right

As Caleb Crain pointed out way back in 2003, Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down Texas’s anti-sodomy laws, argues that the majority’s reasoning leaves the federal government without any constitutional way of forbidding gay marriage.

Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), “when sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring”; what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”?

I think Scalia meant to weight the contrapositive a little more than the direct implication, but hey, the two are equivalent, and it looks like he was right.

Update:  Just to give this a little more context:  It might look from this excerpt like Scalia is saying “gay marriage is obviously terrible and this decision would make it unconstitutional for Congress to outlaw gay marriage, therefore the decision is wrong.”  But in fact Scalia is responding here not to the Court’s main opinion in Lawrence, but to Sandra Day O’Connor’s concurrence, in which she goes out of her way to explain that her vote here should not be taken as precedent for establishing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, no way, no how; while “moral disapproval” is not a legitimate state interest, she says rather vaguely that  “other reasons exist to promote the institution of marriage beyond mere moral disapproval of an excluded group,” and that these reasons, whatever they are, mean that laws forbidding same-sex marriage are constitutional.

Scalia’s dissent says, and I paraphrase, “You’re kidding yourself, Day-O —  if there’s no legitimate state interest in forbidding sodomy to same-sex couples while allowing it for opposite-sex couples, then there’s no legitimate state interest in forbidding marriage to same-sex couples while allowing it for opposite-sex couples, and you shouldn’t allow yourself to pretend otherwise.”  And he was right!

 

 

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Gay marriage and the null hypothesis

Two controversial topics in one post!

Orin Kerr this week on Perry vs. Schwarzenegger:

Several of the key factual findings in Judge Walker’s opinion are in the form of predictions, not facts. For example, Judge Walker finds that “permitting same-sex couples to marry will not . . . otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.” But real predictions have confidence levels. You might think you’re going to get an “A” on an exam next week, but that’s not a fact. It’s just a prediction, and there’s a hidden confidence level: Maybe there’s an 80% chance you’ll get that grade, or a 60% chance. Judge Walker’s prediction-facts have no confidence levels, however. He doesn’t say that there is an 87% chance that permitting same-sex marriage will not affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages. He says that it is now a fact — with 100% certainty — that that will happen.

I think Kerr is incorrect about Walker’s meaning.  When we say, for instance, that a clinical trial shows that a treatment “has no effect” on a disease, we are certainly not saying that, with 100% certainty, the treatment will not change a patient’s condition in any way.  How could we be?  We’re saying, instead, that the evidence before us gives us no compelling reason to rule out “the null hypothesis” that the drug has no effect.  Elliott Sober writes well about this in Evidence and Evolution.  It’s unsettling at first — the meat and potatoes of statistical analysis is deciding whether or not to rule out the null hypothesis, which as a literal assertion is certainly false!  It’s not the case that not a single opposite-sex marriage, potential or actual, will be affected by the legality of same-sex marriage; Walker is making the more modest claim that the evidence we have doesn’t provide us any ability to meaningfully predict the size of that effect, or whether it will on the whole be positive or negative.

This doesn’t speak to Kerr’s larger point, which is that Walker’s finding of fact might not be relevant to the case — California can outlaw whatever it wants without any evidence that the outlawed thing causes any harm, as long as it has a “rational basis” for doing so.  The key ruling here seems to be Justice Kennedy’s in Heller v. Doe, which says:

A State, moreover, has no obligation to produce evidence to sustain the rationality of a statutory classification. “[A] legislative choice is not subject to courtroom factfinding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data.”

and later:

True, even the standard of rationality as we so often have defined it must find some footing in the realities of the subject addressed by the legislation.

I’m in the dark about what Kennedy can mean here.  If speculation is unsupported by evidence, in what sense is it rational?  And what “footing in the realities of the subject” can it be said to have?

More confusing still:   in the present case, the legislation at issue comes from a referendum, not the legislature.  So we have no record to tell us what kind of speculation, rational or not, lies behind it — or, for that matter, whether the law is intended to serve a legitimate government interest at all.  Maybe there is no choice under the circumstances but for the “rational basis” test to be no test at all, and for the courts to defer completely to referenda, however irrational they may seem to the judge?

(Good, long discussion of related points, esp. “to what extend should judges try to read voters’ minds,” at Crooked Timber.)

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Assortative mating

The red book is here! By which I mean: the reunion report of the Harvard Class of 1993 arrived in the mail yesterday. Now that most of us are married, I thought it would be interesting to see whether indeed Harvard locks its graduates into a bubble of privilege, accessible only to other alumni of the fanciest schools — in other words, does Harvard marry Harvard?

So I’m just going to go through this book alphabetically, until I get bored, and write down the alma mater of the spouse of each married Harvard grad. I’ll separate my classmates by gender, in case that makes a difference.

Harvard men found spouses from:

  • West Virginia
  • Florida Atlantic
  • Georgetown
  • North Carolina State
  • Emory
  • St. John’s University
  • UC-Davis
  • Harvard
  • U Mass – Boston
  • Duke
  • UC-Davis
  • UC-Berkeley
  • Knox College
  • Yale
  • Harvard
  • Durham
  • Harvard
  • Duke
  • Purdue

And the Harvard women:

  • George Washington
  • Southern Connecticut
  • Evergreen State
  • Harvard
  • Yale
  • Texas A&M
  • Harvard
  • New Mexico
  • Colgate
  • Harvard
  • York
  • Harvard
  • Harvard
  • Columbia
  • West Point
  • Sydney
  • Harvard
  • Brandeis
  • Harvard
  • Princeton
  • Tufts

OK, that’s enough. Hard to draw much from such a small sample size, but am I going to flip through the whole book typing in husbands and wives?  I am not.

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