In a surprising decision handed down last week, the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a lower court decision and ruled in favor of allowing married couples where one partner had transitioned gender during the marriage to divorce, saying the state's law banning same-sex marriages does not apply. A lower court had ruled that the two women had nullified their marriage when the husband transitioned to female and changed her birth certificate.
The Court of Appeals reversed the decision, saying that the couple did not enter into a same-sex marriage and therefore Indiana's anti-gay marriage equality law did not apply. Judge Mathias wrote in the Davis v Summers opinion:
Melanie Davis f/k/a David Paul Summers ("Davis") appeals the order of the Monroe Circuit Court dismissing Davis's petition to dissolve her marriage with Angela Summers ("Summers"). On appeal, Davis claims that the trial court erred in concluding that Davis and Summers's marriage was void under Indiana Code section 31-11-1-1, which generally prohibits same-sex marriages in Indiana. Concluding that the parties' marriage was not automatically voided when the trial court granted Davis's petition to change her name and be identified as a female instead of a male, we reverse and remand.
In summary, under the specific facts and circumstances before us in this case, a marriage between a man and a woman that was valid when it was entered into does not automatically become void when one of the parties has his or her birth certificate amended to indicate a change of gender. The statute prohibiting same-sex marriages does not apply to the particular set of circumstances in this case because the parties did not enter into a same-sex marriage in Indiana or into a same-sex marriage that was solemnized in another state. In addition, a marriage such as the one at issue here is not listed among those marriages declared void ab initio under applicable Indiana statutes, and would be improper to interpret the statute otherwise. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
BRADFORD, J., and PYLE, J., concur.