'Send Ben:' Local mom says DMV is discriminating against certain women

Action News Jax Investigates: Women fighting to get drivers licenses

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action News Jax investigation exposes a law that appears to discriminate against local women who are trying to renew their driver’s license.

Many are having to track down decades-old documents to prove their name changed in a marriage or divorce.

“They turn me away for a document they say they need from 47 years ago," said Debra Williams, who relies on her car to get to the doctor. She tells Action News Jax's Ben Becker the State of Florida put the brakes on her license renewal at the DMV.

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Williams changed her name when she got married in South Carolina, but she and thousands of other women like her do not have an official marriage license handy.

“There are other women out here that are talking about it, complaining about it, but they aren't doing anything about it," Williams said.

Florida is complying with a federal law known as "Real ID." The new license features a circle with a yellow star in the upper right-hand corner, indicating the license meets federal standards

In addition to documents such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport and proof of residency, proof of a name change is also needed to obtain the license.

Williams said she was told it could take six to eight weeks to get her certified marriage certificate from South Carolina, if it can even be found. Her driver’s license expires before then.

“Men don't have to do this. Only women. And that's not right,” Williams said.

So she reached out to “Send Ben” for help.

“When I watch you on TV, let Ben find out what their problem is," Williams said.

First, Becker called the Duval County Tax Collectors office, which issues driver’s licenses, to arrange an interview with Tax Collector Jim Overton, but he declined.

So, Becker went to a tax collector's office where Overton would be the next day and pressed him about Williams' situation.

“Is there anything the county can do to help?” Becker asked.

“No,” Overton replied.

Becker then went to the state, asking the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles about a process that appears to make women jump through more hoops then men.

The state responded:

"The state will work with customers on any transaction in accordance with Real ID requirements."

One day after putting the state in touch with Williams, she got her new license, with the yellow star, putting Williams back in the driver’s seat.

"I had no other choice other than you,” Williams said.

“We’re here to help,” Becker said.

“I appreciate that a lot," Williams said.

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