The Same Sex Marriage Snyder-Hill Story
On or about July 4, 2012, Stephen Hill and his spouse, Joshua Snyder, legally became Joshua and Stephen Snyder-Hill by order of Magistrate Reddington of Ohio’s Franklin County Probate Court. This fact was announced in a written decision of Name Change Applications filed in Ohio, where Same Sex Marriage was legally banned but Legal Name Change was available to all residents for a very long time, and still is. The opportunity for same-sex couples to legally marry has been changing dramatically since then, but at the time it was not a possibility.
Stephen Hill went to war for our country…twice. But, as a gay man serving in the era of “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell”, he was required to lie about his sexuality or be booted out of the military. That part didn’t sit well with him.
After getting legally married in Washington, D.C., he and his spouse, Joshua Snyder, applied where they lived, in Ohio, to get both their marriage name change. Ohio had banned same-sex marriage 8 years before. Not wanting to lie anymore, they told the truth on their applications: They were legally married in another place and wanted to share last names the way married people do. When a court employee suggested they use a different reason or risk getting turned down, they stayed with their real reason. Then, at the court hearing to decide their Name Change Application, the court Magistrate gave them another chance to use a different reason: “Will this name change make your life easier?” Neither of them wanted to get their Names Changed on a pretense. “No, not really” they both said.
The Magistrate said he would issue a written ruling. And, since the custom was to just routinely grant the name changes right on the spot in court, Stephen and Joshua were braced for a bad ruling and preparing to appeal. But no appeal was needed. The Magistrate, William Reddington presiding in Ohio’s Franklin County Probate Court, issued a well researched and lengthy written ruling about 10 days later. Their Applications to have their Names Legally Changed to Joshua Snyder-Hill and Stephen Snyder-Hill, respectively, were granted!
Most Name Change Petitions, hearings and decisions around the country are as ordinary as getting a driver’s license. This one, however, made news. Literally. The drama in Magistrate Reddinton’s courtroom was covered on the channel 10 TV News in Columbus, Ohio and was the subject of many an article written about the Snyder-Hills’ stressful but ultimately successful efforts to share last names.
Besides going to war, Hill was a veteran of other high profile exchanges on the questions of his rights to live life the way other Americans do. For instance, Hill had been the one who’s question about DADT was chosen to be asked in one of the 2012 Republican Presidential debates. Speaking as a gay active serviceman, he asked the candidates if they would try, if elected, to reinstate the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that was being undone at the time. The question prompted the audience to audibly boo and most news outlets featured the question, the audience’s reaction and Rick Santorum’s answer in their reporting. The Snyder-Hills’ are also parties to a lawsuit filed by Service members Legal Defense Network, challenging the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, now being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some same-sex marriage detractors likely see the high profile activities of the Snyder-Hills as grandstanding, show-boating, or worse. Supporters no-doubt see their actions as those of strong, perhaps even heroic people living their lives as regular Americans but against a backdrop of discrimination and unfair recriminations about sexuality. Many others, in neither camp, will see these stories wash by on the evening news or across the computer screen and might find the events interesting enough to take mental note of in the way we keep track of new things in our changing world.
I don’t know about those views though. What I know is that a couple who couldn’t get legally married in their state, asked the courts to recognize their decision to go by their chosen married name, the hyphenated version of their respective lasts names. And the court said yes!
The court’s approval of the Snyder-Hill’s Name Change Applications doesn’t change their Ohio marital status one bit. It does change their Names, legally, even in Ohio. That’s a big deal. If you don’t believe me, ask the Snyder-Hills.
Note: This article is based upon the following published accounts:
- ONE Community, 7-5-12 “Congratulations Stephen and Joshua Snyder-Hill”
- YouTube, “10 TV Name Change Court – YouTube”
- LGBTQNATION, 6-22-12 “Married gay couple seeking name change encouraged to lie on application”
- Ohio Revised Code Title 27, CHANGE OF NAME