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City Human Rights Commission Discusses First Complaint

The Human Rights Commission discussed its first complaint during a meeting last month. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

It’s unknown if the first complaint the re-established Jamestown Human Rights Commission discussed is under its purview, but the group is moving forward to see what can be done.

During the March meeting of the commission, Kimberly Knight, commission member, discussed an unofficial complaint she received from two women who needed extra paperwork to renew their driver’s license.

Since 2017, DMVs throughout the state have started issuing Real IDs, which is mandated by the federal government following the passing of the REAL ID Act in 2005. The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses, permits and ID cards. The act also prohibits federal agencies, like the Transportation Security Administration, from accepting cards for official purposes from states that do not meet these standards. Beginning on Oct. 1, the federal government will require a driver license, permit or ID card to be REAL ID compliant for those who wish to use it as identification to board a domestic flight, within the U.S., or enter military bases and certain federal facilities.

Knight said both women are married and their current names aren’t their birth names. Because of their marriages, both women need to show their marriage license and in the case of one woman, who has been married twice, she will need to show her marriage licenses and divorce papers.

Knight said that both women didn’t know they needed the extra paperwork to receive their REAL ID. She added a man can just walk into the DMV without the additional paperwork, which seems unfair to woman, who traditionally take the last name of their spouse after being married.

“Why can’t she just renew it. Her name hasn’t changed in 10 years,” Knight said. “(The process) seems discriminatory against women. Their husbands had no problem. Why do women have to prove it.”

According to the state DMV website — dmv.ny.gov/driver-license/federal-real-id — paperwork that is required to acquire a REAL ID includes items like if the name on a license, permit, or non-driver ID application does not match the name on an identity, lawful status and social security proofs, someone must bring in court or government issued proof(s) documenting the event(s) causing a name change(s) such as a marriage license(s), divorce decree(s), adoption or court order document(s).

In September 2019, Larry Barmore, county clerk, said in The Post-Journal that there has been issues in dealing with the paperwork to get a REAL ID when it comes to women who have married and taken their spouse’s last name.

“Sometimes a women’s last name today is not what it was when she was born,” he said. “They have to bring in a marriage license. For some people who have been married more than once, they have to show a whole paper trail. It’s a real rigmarole if they’ve been married three or four times.”

Knight said both women walked out of the DMV without acquiring a REAL ID. She said both women felt the additional paperwork was an example of inequality between men and women.

“Why are there more steps for a woman and not for men,” she said.

The Rev. Uvie Stewart Jr., commission chairman, said the commission needs to find out who to address the complaint to about the paperwork issue for women at the DMV office, so they can make a report to the right person. Justin Hubbard, commission member, said the additional paperwork seems to be an unnecessary barrier for women to get their REAL ID. He said the commission should contact the DMV to find out the official process. Knight said she would contact the county DMV to gather more insight into the official process to acquire a REAL ID.

In other business, the commission finalized its vision and mission statements. The Vision is, “To transform Jamestown into a welcoming, empowered and diverse mecca of hope, acceptance, safety, celebration and unity.”

The commission had a choice between three mission statements and selected, “The Human Rights Commission will further equitable justice in Jamestown community through exploration of issues and resolution of injustices. Through education and awareness, we empower all community members to feel safe to speak out, leading to a more inclusive, diverse and celebratory culture.”

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