Appeals court rules in favor of transgender Texas woman

Although we recognize that some of our readers here in Forth Worth may not be comfortable with the topic of same-sex couples, we also recognize that some of our readers may be part of the LGBT group and may have questions about family law issues just like anyone else. But their situation is more complicated than most because Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage. And it’s something that is becoming more frequent as more states across the nation legalize same-sex marriage.

A case out of Corpus Christi, in which a transgender woman recently appealed a court’s decision to void her marriage, is highlighting the complexities we described above. The crux of the case is whether the woman is the legal beneficiary to her deceased husband’s death benefits. The woman’s mother-in-law and the husband’s ex-wife from a previous marriage claimed in a court filing that because the transgender woman had male sex organs at the time of her marriage, her union should be considered a same-sex marriage. If this was the case, should she be allowed to collect benefits upon her husband’s death?

Although the mother-in-law and ex-wife argued no, a three-judge panel with the 13th District Court of Appeals disagreed this month and reversed the decision to void the marriage. The reversal was based on expert testimony given by the woman’s doctor who pointed out that although the woman had been born male, she identified herself as female. According to the appeals court’s ruling, the woman was “medically and psychologically” female when she married her husband, meaning she did not have a same-sex marriage or domestic partnership.

Though this case may exemplify the changing attitudes in the legal system when it comes to same-sex marriage, it’s important to remember that this is one court’s opinion of the case and other judges may not interpret a case like this in the same way.

Source: Courthouse News, “Fireman’s Transgender Widow May Get Benefits,” David Lee, Feb. 18, 2014