Portia becomes a DeGeneres and we talk changing names in gay marriage

Say hello to Mrs. And Mrs. DeGeneres. Portia de Rossi filed papers this week to legally change her name to Portia Lee James DeGeneres, taking her wife Ellen DeGeneres’ last name two years after their August 2008 marriage. All together now: awwwww.

Of course, the issue of changing one’s name is a tricky one on the LGBT community. Whose name should you pick? Should you hyphenate? Should you combine them? In these difficult cases I turn to the immortal words of Tina Kennard: “Hey Portard! How’re your two moms, you big gaymo?!”

Right, so, clearly, don’t combine them. Actually these days I’m more surprised when straight female friends change their names to their husbands than when they don’t. But Portia’s decision has both obvious romantic and political overtones. In the gay community changing one’s name is seen more as an act of cementing the relationship’s legitimacy than an archaic remnant from a time when women were merely their husband’s chattel. At least I hope.

So, again, it begs the questions: How do we handle the name thing?

It remains to be seen whether Portia continues to use de Rossi professionally. Actresses who have changed or augmented their names after marriage haven’t had the best track record of making it stick. Just ask Courtney Cox Arquette and Rebecca Romijn Stamos. But Portia’s decision makes me happy, nonetheless. Though, she should brace herself for a slew of terrible Portia “DeGenerate” jokes from the idiot fringe. Ah, rhyming insults — the last refuge of scoundrels and 6-year-olds on the playground everywhere.

So what do you think? To change or not to change, that is the question.

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