Gay Marriage | Texas | Transgender

Lack Of Clarity Surrounds Texas Marriage Licenses And Gender

Last week a judge in Texas ruled that a transgender woman's marriage to her late firefighter husband was invalid. The man's family and his ex-wife had sought to prevent the woman, Nikki Araguz, from receiving any of the $600,000 in death benefits.

The Houston Chronicle reports on the reaction from the gay community in that state:

Nikki Noel Freeman, president of the Houston Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Political Caucus, said by phone that the news was very disappointing, given that Nikki Araguz had presented legal documents, including her reissued birth certificate, showing she is female. "Here you have a birth certificate, a legally binding document, which the court has chosen to completely ignore," Freeman said. "The transgender community jumps through a lot of legal hoops — records of sex changes, amended birth certificates - to try to live the same life that everybody else gets to live. This is a very frustrating setback."

The New York Times describes the confusion:

A two-year-old state law says a court order recognizing a sex or name change is acceptable for marriage license applicants. But a 1999 Texas appeals court ruling stipulates that, at least for purposes of marriage, medical procedures cannot change a person’s sex — you are what you were at birth, period.

This legislative session, politicians have punted on clarifying the issue. And that means that despite the state’s constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage, some clerks are issuing marriage licenses that, by some definitions, create gay unions. Other clerks are not sure what to do, waiting for lawmakers or the courts to clarify the matter.

“All of that is very unfortunate,” said Representative Lois W. Kolkhorst, Republican of Brenham, whose 2009 legislation is at the heart of the confusion. Ms. Kolkhorst said that at the time she did not realize her bill would create an issue. “We just didn’t get that clarified,” she said, “and we should.”

Araguz is expected to appeal the ruling.

Last year, Araguz spoke about the challenges she faced on her own YouTube channel. Watch one of those videos, AFTER THE JUMP.

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  1. "reports on the reaction of the gay community of that state": so now we have all become spokespersons for the transexual community? Sorry, I have no interest in those issues, and it is getting to the point where valuable resources and time are being spent to fight for the rights of people who consider themselves heterosexuals at the detrimate of same sex causes.

    Posted by: frank | May 29, 2011 12:22:25 PM

  2. 100% of that money should be held in a trust for the late firefighter's children to pay for college, etc. Nikki is being selfish and not honoring her husband.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | May 29, 2011 12:29:37 PM

  3. Frank, you don't have to become a "spokesperson for the transexual community," but do you honestly think the same people who want to invalidate a transgender woman's marriage wouldn't also want to invalidate yours, if you were married?

    Transphobia and homophobia come from the same place in the minds of bigots. Marriage should include any 2 consenting adults, regardless of gender, biological or otherwise. Marriage equality should include us, and it should include trans people. No rational reason to believe otherwise.

    How can anyone expect straight people to step out of their own shoes to empathize with our civil rights if we're unwilling to do the same for trans people, never mind that the discrimination L G & T face in marriage is quite obviously related.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 29, 2011 12:41:07 PM

  4. Afraid to open comments and see everyone line up to throw the trans overboard.

    Sure enough.

    Posted by: melvin | May 29, 2011 12:48:40 PM

  5. @Frank: When one person does not have equality, none of us have it. If I were to say my equality is more important than my neighbors, I would become just like the ones who fight against my equality as a gay American. The "us, but not them" is a flawed argument to have, especially when all of us are truly the same.

    Posted by: J. Alan | May 29, 2011 1:04:13 PM

  6. ..."Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me"...

    For more than 20 years it's been the LGBT community for a reason. Civil rights are for everyone - not just you, Frank.

    Nikki and members of the transgendered community deserve to be treated equally and as human beings. It's our obligation to stand with them if we want to be taken seriously. Are they different than we are? We're all gloriously different. And therein lies the beauty of it.

    Posted by: bluedogJ | May 29, 2011 1:13:53 PM

  7. So basically a gay man could legally marry a legally transitioned female to male transexual because he was born a woman? Even though legally and by outwards appearances they are the feared married gay couple.

    Posted by: John M | May 29, 2011 1:33:26 PM

  8. This is why marriage equality will ultimately prevail.

    Gender reassignment is becoming increasingly more commonplace. Those born with XX XY chromosome ambiguities are also on the rise. The notions of "male" & "female" are becoming more complicated.

    Governments are ill equipped to sort out issues that science is only starting to understand. Sooner or later, legal marriage will be the union of two people...period.

    Posted by: JONNY NYNY2FLFL | May 29, 2011 2:02:10 PM

  9. My question is if Nikki Araguz was "legally" married to her late husband at the time of their marrriage, how can the Texas courts come back at a later date and invalidate their marriage? From a legal perspective, I would think that any marriages that were performed before Texas changed their laws regarding gender categorization would be grandfathered into law as still being "legal". Can someone explain to me why this wasn't the case in this particular situation.

    Posted by: Frederick | May 29, 2011 2:24:17 PM

  10. Wasn't there an issue that her husband didn't know she was born a man and they were seperated?

    Posted by: Geoff | May 29, 2011 2:30:45 PM

  11. Frank: STFU. Imagine if in the Civil Rights Movement all the Jewish activists who were so instrumental in helping Southern organizers just said "Oh this isn't our issue, we're not Black." Obviously, they saw that bigotry is bigotry is bigotry. And what's more, a gay basher is a trans basher. They don't see the differences between us, but as a result, all our struggles against that kind of stupidity are the same struggle. So get your head out of your ass. On a positive note, thanks for being stupid enough to post such an idiotic remark, as it reminds us that we all have more self-education needed in this arena.

    Posted by: alex dilucca | May 29, 2011 2:43:10 PM

  12. The ex-wife was fighting to keep Nikki from receiving the $600,000 death benifit. Why would an ex-wife have legal standing in this case?

    Posted by: Alan | May 29, 2011 3:10:02 PM

  13. This is really a no-brainer, Equality means Equality. No one gets to pick and choose.

    Posted by: PLAINTOM | May 29, 2011 3:31:03 PM

  14. @ Alan

    The ex wife has legal standing because she is the guardian and mother or his children. The kids should get the money.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | May 29, 2011 3:40:01 PM

  15. Who should get the money (kids by ex-wife vs. wife when he died) is a separate question from whether the marriage was valid or not. (The money comes down to the intricacies of this particular case and is meaningful only to the family members themselves.) The larger issue is whether any two adults, regardless of sex or gender, should be able to marry. No rational marriage laws would validate this couple's marriage and not a gay couple's marriage, and vice versa. Either all couples, regardless of sex or gender, are equal or they aren't. And if they aren't, it's discrimination.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 29, 2011 4:16:53 PM

  16. To all of you who are repeating this "marriage will eventually be any two people" line, this is your friendly reminder that polyamorous people exist and deserve to have the same rights and protections in their lifetime relationships.

    Posted by: Sonneillon | May 29, 2011 7:15:29 PM

  17. i am really appreciating you for your kindness that you have made a really interesting blog and peoples are always seeking to get information and share their ideas. Great work Man and keep it going. God bless you!

    Posted by: Barefoot Running Shoes | May 29, 2011 10:38:37 PM

  18. @SONNEILLON: People are currently free to be polyamorous, aren't they? Polygamy, on the other hand, is not legal, but that applies equally to straight, gay, bi and trans people. No one is allowed to marry more than one person, so there is no discrimination based on sex or gender, as there currently is with marriage. The arguments for or against the marriage/union of 3 or more people are distincutly different from the arguments for excluding certain couples from 2-person marriage. Polygamy raises unique and complicated family law questions that would need to be uniquely argued before courts and legislatures.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 29, 2011 11:43:18 PM

  19. Frank, as a gay man myself, you make me sick. In fact, you make me sicker than the straight bigots do. How dare you! It's one thing to not be able to get married. It's quite another to think you are married and have it invalidated after the fact. Neither is right, but this woman's situation is horrifying.

    Posted by: John K. | May 30, 2011 4:05:13 AM

  20. Ive never pretended to Understand Transsexuals..and why they are the way they are........they just are, Live and let live I say...and we should all stick together as a community.

    Posted by: Disgusted Gay American | May 30, 2011 10:42:34 AM

  21. if there is money involved - esp. if he had children....then splitting it would be good. ..basically sounds like Hateful Texas is at the helm at usual. If she's a women physically - she's a woman.

    Posted by: Disgusted Gay American | May 30, 2011 10:48:05 AM

  22. The chick is sketchy

    Posted by: txstevo | May 31, 2011 12:20:43 AM

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