New Law Could Make Brangelina Mr. and Mrs. Brad Jolie

ByABC News via logo

March 22, 2007 — -- Romeo famously asked Juliet, "What's in a name?"

What followed became one of Shakespeare's most famous lines: "That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet."

But some couples in California would likely beg to differ. They want a state law changed so that newly married men can change their last names just as easily as their female counterparts, and they're calling on Gov. Schwarzenegger to make it happen.

When Christopher Sclafani took his wife Jeannie Rhee's last name, it caused a stir.

"[I got a] fair amount of ribbing from friends of mine," Christopher Rhee said. "Family members were not excited about this. My father-in-law was amused."

But to the Rhees, who are both lawyers, it was no laughing matter.

"It just seemed so unfair that the automatic answer was that I gave birth to a baby who didn't have our last name -- my last name," Jeannine Rhee said.

Experts argue that by turning the cultural tables, husbands risk social ridicule.

"Are you going to lose some credit at work? Talk with the family… about the family's legacy and how everyone would feel," said Sharon Naylor, author of "It's Not My Wedding: But I'm In Charge."

It's questionable whether the names of some of today's most famous men would work if they had their spouse's last names. Mr. and Mrs. Brad Jolie, Mr. and Mrs. Stedman Winfrey and President and Mrs. Bill Rodham are just a few of the possibilities.

Only six states currently allow a husband to change his name as easily as a wife. This month, California legislators plan to consider a bill that would make their state the seventh.

Across the world, women in Korea have traditionally kept their maiden names after getting married. But feminism has nothing to do with that custom. Up until 100 years ago, Korean men were allowed to practice polygamy. They let their wives keep their last names to avoid confusion.

Back in America, while Californians are campaigning for their rights, it's not likely New Yorkers will jump on the bandwagon anytime soon. Many young couples tying the knot at New York's City Hall laughed at the idea of a man taking a woman's last name.

"We'll talk about it. You're going to switch to my name," one young woman said to her male partner.

The modern day Romeo's response wasn't the stuff of Shakespeare, but it was straightforward.

"I seriously doubt that," he said.

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