Senator Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator McConnell:
I ask you to sponsor legislation restoring the right of Americans to use their middle name as their legal name.
From our earliest days as a nation, Americans have been free to use a second or third forename as their identifying name. Millions of Americans, including three Presidents, have done so, and today an estimated 10% of the population is known by a middle name. Most people known by a middle name have never been known by any other forename.
Until 2011, the US Government recognized all given names on a birth certificate to be part of a person’s legal name but permitted an unused name to be omitted or represented by initial letter on passports and Social Security cards regardless of its position in the legal name.
The US State Department still permits an applicant to drop an unused forename or represent it by initial letter. (It gives specific examples including, Aloysius Sherman Peabody can be identified as Sherman Peabody, and Francis Scott Fitzgerald can be identified as F. Scott Fitzgerald.) — US Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual, Vol. (7 FAM 1300 Appendix C: Names to be Used in Passports, 1316: 4 & 5).
However, Social Security Administration policy adopted in 2011 declares that legal names consist only of a person’s first and last names (RM 10212.001). It now issues Social Security cards under the applicant’s full first name whether the person is known by that name or not. The middle name may be stated on the card if the applicant wishes, but the SSA does not consider it to be part of the person’s legal name and disregards it in official communication. The only way the SSA will recognize a second given name as a legal name is if the person legally changes their name to make it their first name!
This policy creates obstacles for those of us who go by a middle name because many governmental agencies are required to follow it.
[Personalize your letter, relating how you were forced to get an unwanted name change or some other bureaucratic difficulty you may have experienced.]
According to the SSA, their policy can be changed only by Congress. I ask you, therefore, to sponsor legislation restoring citizens’ right to determine for themselves which of their forenames they will use as their legal name, and requiring the federal government to accept that name as the person’s legal name.