Texas legislature considering contentious measure on transgender marriage

In recent divorce-related news, state legislators are currently considering highly controversial legislation regarding the right of transgendered couples to marry in the state of Texas.

Specifically, the legislation – sponsored by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) – would reverse part of a law enacted in 2009 allowing county/district clerks to issue marriage licenses to transgendered people who present a copy of a court order recognizing their gender reassignment.

The legislation – if passed – would also officially bring state law into line with a rather controversial decision issued by a Texas appellate court back in 1999. Essentially this decision stated that when it comes to marriage, gender is assigned at birth and remains assigned despite any gender reassignment surgery.

According to Sen. Williams, the goal of the legislation is twofold: One, it is designed to clarify the aforementioned 2009 law which expressly bans same-sex marriage under the state constitution, and two, it is to meant to ease any confusion among county/district clerk regarding their ability to issue marriage licenses.

“[Clerks] shouldn’t have to resolve these issues,” he said. “We have confused them.”

If the proposed legislation passes the state legislature, Texas will no longer be included in the majority of U.S. states that allow transgendered people to marry.

“It would be terrible for Texas, now that it finally caught up with the rest of the country, to take a step back,” said Shannon Minter, a lawyer with the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.

Opponents of the measure also fear that it in addition to preventing transgendered persons from marrying, it could nullify existing marriages between transgendered couples.

“It appears the goal is to try to enshrine a really horrifying ruling and making it law in the state of Texas,” said John Nechman, a Houston-area attorney whose firm handles matters in the GLBT community.

Interestingly, Governor Rick Perry’s office has long maintained that the provision allowing transgendered couples to marry – only three words long – slipped through as part of a much larger piece of legislation.

The Senate version of the legislation is currently awaiting a full vote in the state Senate where it is expected to pass. The House version of the legislation, however, has yet to receive a hearing.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

To learn more about dissolution of marriage or life after divorce, contact an experienced legal or financial professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Texas may strip away transgender marriage rights (Google News)