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July 23, 2010

The "Alleged" Transgender Wife Of A Texas Firefighter And Inheritance

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Marriage equality is about trans people too. Here’s a statement that explains the issue in Texas:

A 1991 Texas court case defined gender in the state as determined by three factors, gonads, genitalia and chromosomes at the time of birth.

So reads the last paragraph of the United Press International (UPI) article Alleged transgender widow benefits frozen. That’s right, the headline says “alleged.”

A Texas judge ordered a firefighter’s widow, who was alleged to have been born a man, not to spend or collect any death benefits from her husband.

State District Judge Randy Clapp issued the temporary order Friday when allegedly transgendered Nikki Araguz revealed she had received $60,000 of the expected $600,000 cash payout from the death of her husband, Wharton County firefighter Thomas Araguz, in a July 4 farm inferno, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.

Here’s why the money was frozen. From Today’s THV article Transgender widow of Texas firefighter wants to keep husband’s death benefits

Eight days after Thomas Araguz died battling a fire in Wharton County; his mother filed a lawsuit to block Nikki Araguz from receiving any of his death benefits. Texas law suggests Nikki is not entitled, because she was born as Justin Graham Purdue in 1975, a man.

Attorney Chad Ellis says, “The courts of appeals have looked at this issue, and have basically said that you are what you’re born as.”

That argument centers on this case, Christie Lee Littleton in San Antonio who was denied the right to sue a doctor for her husband’s death because she too was born a man. Courts ruled her marriage invalid. But some legal analyst says that case was never ruled on by the Texas Supreme Court

Professor and legal expert Gerald Treece says, “And those people are arguing they have civil rights too. And this is going to be almost a perfect law school model testing that very premise.”

It’s a premise Araguz will test with attorney Phyllis Randolph Frye, who went through the stigma that comes with becoming transgendered more than 30 years ago. She says, “I don’t want other people to put up with what I had to go through. And that’s pretty much been my life’s story since then. So it is personal.”

It should be noted that ABC News has reported:

The family of Thomas Araguz III, of Wharton, Texas, has alleged in a lawsuit filed eight days after his July 4 death that he had been separated from his wife Nikki, nursing feelings of betrayal after learning that his wife of two years had been born a man.

“He was distraught. It was overwhelming,” said Chad Ellis, a Houston lawyer hired by Araguz’s mother. “It was extremely difficult for him.”

The widow has said she did not commit fraud:

“I am absolutely devastated by the loss of my husband…and horrified at the horrendous allegations accusing me of fraud because they’re absolutely not true. And that’s all I have to say.”

I will once again quote what Mara Keisling has said about trans people and marriage:

Every trans person who’s in a relationship, regardless of what their gender is or ever was they’re either in a same-sex relationship or in an opposite sex relationships that somebody could claim was a same-sex relationship.

What Mara said is still true; marriage equality is still a very trans issue.

~~~~~

Related:

* Sabrina Hill’s Story Reminds Us Why Marriage Equality Is A Transgender Issue Too

* Question At The Marriage Chapel: “Are you a transsexual?”

* Profile: Join The Impact’s/San Diego’s Kelly Moyer

* NCLR’s Shannon Minter at the Cali Transgender Leadership Summit: “Sure! I am a transgender man.”

* Trans Woman Denied The Fundamental Right To Marry In Reno, Nevada

* Open thread for Prop 8 hearing


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