CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — On Oct. 1, New York State residents will join the rest of the country and be required to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. The Act was passed by Congress in 2005 in the wake of 9/11.

It establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses, permits and identification cards. It also prohibits federal agencies, like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), from accepting cards for official purposes from states that do not meet these standards.

Proving one’s identity is a mandatory requirement.

For many states the law went into effect Jan. 22, 2018.  However, 17 states were granted an extension in October 2017. Six others were classified as “still under review” at the time. New York State was one of the latter.

All states are required to be compliant by Oct. 1 of this year. 

One of the steps to get the REAL ID for married women who took their husband’s names requires they provide documentation to prove their identity prior to the name change.

If the applicant’s current last name doesn’t match the documents being submitted they must provide documentation linking all legal name changes. Documents must be original or certified by the issuing agency. 

One local woman’s story in this regard is a message to others. In October she reached out to this newspaper for help in obtaining the REAL ID after making several trips to the local DMV office in September and getting no results. Her story follows.

She has requested her last name not be used.

Brenda, 70, and a native New Yorker, has been married to the same man for 50 years. She moved back to New York after 45 years living in Rhode Island and needed to change her driver’s license and car registration. She changed her car insurance to New York, gathered her Social Security card, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and proof of address and went to the DMV office.

When she was called up to the counter she was told her marriage license was not accepted in New York State.

Brenda went back home found another copy of her marriage certificate and went back to DMV. She was later told that Albany had rejected the second effort because the certificate was not acceptable. It was a simple photocopy and not certified.

She phoned her husband, who is still living in Rhode Island, and he found the original marriage license which he mailed her. DMV officials then told Brenda it was not acceptable because the couple had been married by a clergyman.

“This is ridiculous,” Brenda said in an email to the newspaper. “I don't need to prove I am a married woman. I just need to get my plates and license changed. I don't need a license to travel out of the U.S. but I do need to fly to see my children in different states.

"Now I can't do any of it.”

Brenda noted her disappointed with the state saying she was born here and got her first driver’s license here and lived in the state until 1976.

“I was married in Philadelphia, PA in 1969. Please help me, I don't know where to turn,” she wrote.

To get things moving Brenda sent two checks to Pennsylvania for court records and was told it might take six to eight weeks to hear back. In the meantime her Rhode Island car inspection sticker expired and she was unable to get the car inspected in New York with out-of-state plates.

“I already got New York car insurance but now everything is on hold. If you have a passport, you're golden. Unfortunately I don't have one,” she wrote.

Shortly thereafter she received a Notice of Action from the DMV in Rhode Island because her inspection sticker had expired.

After this newspaper contacted the Saratoga County DMV on Benda’s behalf she was contacted by the supervisor of the Clifton Park office who helped her through the process.

In the supervisor’s initial introductory email Brenda was told a marriage certificate would be required if her current name and her maiden name differed due to marriage, divorce, or court ordered name changes.

She was told the federal government will not allow any New York State DMV issuing office to accept any church marriage certificates because the only marriage certificates allowed are ones that have been issued from a town or city hall.

The email also contained helpful tips on how to speed things along to register Brenda’s auto.

After meeting with the supervisor in person to try and get her plates and registration Brenda emailed the supervisor thanking her for the meeting. She told the supervisor she had contacted the bank with which she has her car loan seeking a certified copy of the title. Because it was certified it could only be mailed directly to Brenda, however, a copy was to be faxed to the Clifton Park DMV to help things along. 

The certified copy was to be mailed three days later.

Ten days later Brenda wrote the DMV supervisor that her marriage certificate had been located in Norristown, PA. In a reply, the supervisor advised Brenda that a copy of the car title had arrived in the DMV office from the bank and Brenda could come in with all her completed forms and “points of identifications” that she had presented previously and the office could get her car registered.

Before she was able to get to the DMV office to register the car Brenda received a certified copy of her marriage certificate from Pennsylvania. She decided to try and get the REAL ID, the plates and the registration on the same day. By this time Brenda had made six trips to DMV offices.

In a copy of an email sent to the DMV supervisor on the day she was to try and complete her tasks Brenda said she was nervous.

Later that day Brenda wrote this newspaper saying she had the driver’s license, the plates and registration. She thanked the DMV supervisor for the personal help and the newspaper.

In discussing Brenda’s story with recently retired Clifton Park Town Clerk Pat O’Donnell, O’Donnell said she understood Brenda’s plight well. O’Donnell she too had to prove her identity prior to her marriage in order to get her REAL ID.

To do it O’Donnell said she got a certified copy of her marriage certificate where it had been filed, in White Plains, N.Y. It cost her $10.

To show how marriage certificate filings used to be done in the pre-computer age, on one of her last days in office O’Donnell pulled out a large, re-bound book from the town vaults with marriage filings in the town for the years 1964 to1974. Each page contains three official marriage filings.

“It’s hard for a woman to get the new driver’s license,” O’Donnell said matter-of-factly.

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