Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Widow Araguz Denied Death Benefits by Texas Court

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 26, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Nikki Araguz, Randy Clapp, Texas, Thomas Araguz

Nikki Araguz1 (TopStories)In a perhaps unsurprising development, a Texas court ruled yesterday against Nikki Araguz, a transsexual woman with an intersex condition, married to Thomas Araguz, a volunteer firefighter who was killed in the line of duty.

The court declared her marriage invalid, meaning she cannot receive death benefits from her husband.

The opinion hasn't yet been released, so the court's legal basis for the ruling is unknown.

We've discussed the Araguz case several times on Bilerico. What's most unfortunate here is that a court has sided with the Littleton case, also decided in Texas over a decade ago, which essentially decided that woman is defined as ovaries capable of having a baby.

Here is a video from KHOU discussing the case:

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Heartbreaking. I look forward to your analysis of the legal opinion, however.

I was going to say "Awful", but "heartbreaking" is the exact word for this. :( Like a slug to the gut.

Seriously. What a bunch of scumbags the judge and her in-laws are.

Jillian I'm surprised it took you until today to find this piece I read about it two days ago and let me say I'm not surprised she lost I really didn't think she had a change not in Texas. Besides by her own omission she was still technically "male" when the two were married, she didn't have surgery to complete her transition until two months after they were married. I wonder how different the outcome would have been had they had a second ceremony after her surgery. I think in that situation she would have won since the Texas Gov did even if by mistake sign a bill allowing birth certificates to be used as proof of change of gender, so Texas would recognize her as female after surgery just not before.

Jillian while I do think that we have our female gender identities from birth....I'm
not so sure it is possible to get people to fully understand or believe that we
are female from birth even though our dna is xy and we were born with male
genitals......As for TS marriages being voided while that has happen its been in
conservitive narrow minded states likewise there are other more progressive
states were TS marriages are still honored.I feel that the strongest argument to protect TS women's marriages would be the 14th amendment to equal protection clause of the constitution.... It's the same argument used to bring down prop 8. In states that allow birth certificate changes and we're we are recognized as female we can argue that
We are due equal protection under the law granted to us by the constitution.

Characterizing Nikki as transgender turned this into a same sex marriage case. At the time of her marriage, she wasn't legally female by any standard as far as the State of Texas was concerned. This case is very unfortunate. Now she faces charges for stealing a watch. Is this simply a marriage issue if she's declared legally male? There seems to be real questions about her sex assignment at birth. Given the fact that she wasn't legally married one wonders why there weren't intersex activists weighing in on this. I think it may have to do with the fact that she had transsexual surgery. This whole thing is a mess with so many people with so many personal agendas distorting what is going on here. There are actually people out there quoting Leonard Sax's response to Anne Fausto-Sterling on the incidence of intersex. It makes one wonder if they've ever looked into anything he's written. Then, there are others who think they can rely on being diagnosed with "gender identity disorder" to pull them through. It's like the 21st century remake of the Lord of the Flies. We'll all destroy each other before this is all over.

Having followed this case extensively and living in the area, there was no evidence submitted that Nikki Araguz was intersex. There was testimony by Ms. Araguz that she had no internal female organs and that, prior to GRS, had normal male genitalia. Most endocrinologists/medical doctors do not see chromosomal abnormalities in and of themselves as being intersex. This is a moot point as her attorneys presented no evidence that she was intersex...or at least, did not refute the opposing counsel when he stated none had been submitted. There have been no reports of evidence being submitted that Nikki was intersex in the media. Nikki herself has said she was intersex but offered no proof in her interviews.

Perhaps most damning was the fact that she did not have her California birth certificate changed until two months AFTER the death of Thomas. The entire time she was married and Thomas was alive, her birth certificate stated she was male.

"There was testimony by Ms. Araguz that she had no internal female organs and that, prior to GRS, had normal male genitalia."

That's interesting. There has been some mention by intersex activists that she was intersex. Is she and her mother lying about everything? If so, she has a lot of people fooled. It will be interesting to read the opinion and everyone's analysis. I admit I don't understand a lot of this, particularly how the aspect of Texas common law marriage might have affected the outcome. Leonard Sax, though? How she is considered female or not considered female will definitely be important. The question isn't really that different than the question of who is and who isn't intersex. It depends on who does the defining when it comes to the law. Then, there are basic realities that exist whether they're denied or not. Araguz' sex, however, shouldn't be determined by how she conducts her public life. Lindsay Lohan would be declared legally male if that were the case. The marriage issues involved here are only one small part of the matter.

darksidecat | May 27, 2011 2:56 AM

"Araguz' sex, however, shouldn't be determined by how she conducts her public life." Why not? Better yet, what basis does a court of law have for basing a person's rights on their sex? It shouldn't matter if Araguz has had "the surgery" or not, whether she is intersexed or not, fuck, even if she is a woman or not (and she is) . Let's call the basis of this bullshit what it is-discrimination based on sex, gender, and sexuality in society and the law working to deny a person whose partner died fighting fires survivor's benefits. The minute we ask "hey, should this firefighter's partner get survivor's benefits" and it is answered with "quick, do a crotch check!" there should be a huge and obvious problem.

Justus Eisfeld Justus Eisfeld | May 27, 2011 7:21 AM

This is heartbreaking! I cannot even imagine what it must feel like to lose your husband, and instead of being able to mourn, you find yourself in the legal equivalent of a strip show where you have to explain to the whole world how your genitalia look like exactly and your commitment to your life partner is questioned by a money-hungry family and nullified by a court that really should just protect your privacy and dignity.
My heart goes out to Ms. Araguz!