State Bans Parents From Giving Baby Same Last Name As His Siblings​

my name is

There are few parenting decisions that can stir up as much contention as the name parents give their children. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about baby names. But when Kim Sarubbi and her husband Carl Abramson welcomed their first and second children to the world, they gave them the same last name: Sabr, a name they made up by combining some of the letters from their own respective surnames. When it was time to welcome baby number three, the couple assumed they'd give little Camden the same last name. 

They never imagined they'd find themselves in the midst of a lawsuit -- and a national news frenzy -- over their child's last name. But that's just where they are. Sarubbi and Abramson have not been allowed to give their child the last name they made up. The State of Tennessee Department of Health actually issued a birth certificate for Camden under the name "Camden Abramson," and the state is refusing to make the change.


It's putting the question of a parent's right to choose their child's name into serious question.

In a press release sent to The Stir by the ACLU, which is supporting Sarubbi and Abramson's federal lawsuit, ACLU-TN cooperating attorney Carolyn W. Schott of Sherrard & Roe PLC noted, "Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children. Naming our own children is not only a very personal decision, it’s also an act of free expression, protected by the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions.”  

Hard to argue with that, right? Ours is a country where people can name their kids after Apple, Hashtag, and dozens, nay, hundreds of other questionable things. And Nevada and California, the states where the Sabrs' older kids, Alex and Maya, were born, allowed the hybrid moniker without so much as an eyebrow raised.

And yet, the Tennessee Attorney General issued a statement back in August, around the time of Camden's birth, telling parents in the Volunteer State that their only options for baby naming are mom's last name, dad's last name, or a hyphenated option.

But is this really fair?

A mom's last name doesn't reflect the father's involvement. A father's last name doesn't reflect the mother's (especially not if mom kept her maiden name -- as Sarubbi did), and a hyphenated name can become cumbersome for a child, especially when the parents' surnames are long like the parents in this case. The latter can become an even bigger issue when two crazy kids with hyphenated last names meet, fall in love, and decide to make kids of their own. Then what happens? Do we require a kid to become Susie Jones-Smith-Johnson-Schmidt?


The fact of the matter is last names have been "made up" for centuries, often by our own government. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants reportedly had their last names "Americanized" when they came through spots like Ellis Island and met inspectors who either could not understand them or did not care. Other folks made the changes themselves, often to assimilate better (or so they thought) into the culture.

In the case of the Sabr children, isn't that what's happening? Their parents aren't going to saddle them with a mouthful like Sarubbi-Abramson, and instead are trying to give them something easy to spell, pronounce, and fit on a lifetime of government forms. They're trying to make them assimilate into modern America, where it's become increasingly common for parents to have different last names.

Instead of giving them a hard time, the State of Tennessee might remember that, more often than not, parents know what's best for their kids.

What is your feeling on "made up" last names for kids?


Read More >