Appeals court reaffirms decision in Araguz case

Posted on 28 Oct 2015 at 1:21pm

Nikki Araguz Loyd, pictured here during her wedding to her first husband, firefighter Thomas Araguz

A state appeals court has reaffirmed its earlier decision to validate the marriage of a transgender widow seeking the estate of her firefighter husband who died battling a blaze, sending a mandate back down to the Wharton County judge who presided at trial to issue a new ruling validating the marriage.

The ruling Friday, Oct. 23, by the 13th Texas Court of Appeals sent the case of Nikki Araguz Loyd back to a Wharton County judge who originally voided the marriage because Texas did not recognize same-sex marriage. Kent Rutter, an attorney for Loyd, said the appeals court had ruled early last year in Loyd’s favor — determining she was a woman at the time of her marriage — but had to issue another ruling this month after an appeal sent to the Texas Supreme Court was not heard.

Loyd — who has since remarried — told ABC 13 in Houston, “It’s the most beautiful twist of karma. The judge to so viciously ruled against me now has to reverse his own ruling. It’s never been about money. It was not about money when I married my husband. It certainly was not about money when I buried him.”

She added, “It’s bittersweet finally having the victory now, when I don’t necessarily need it. But it allows me to do amazing things with it. I’m just going to go on about my life helping other people do the same, but really taking a step out of the political movement and really focusing more on spiritual aspects.”

The Houston TV station notes, “According a 2014 appeals court opinion, Araguz Loyd’s marriage was valid due to a change in the Family Law code that states that a person who has had a sex change is eligible to marry a person of the opposite sex. Aragon Loyd said she has a sex change months after she got married to Thomas and that he knew she was transgender at the time they married. Araguz Loyd now stands to collect more than half a million dollars in the death benefits.”

Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June affirming the constitutional right to marriage equality would have settled the issue as well, since that ruling made Araguz Loyd’s gender at the time of her marriage irrelevant.

The Appeals Court’s ruling also overturns Littleton v. Prange, the 1999 lawsuit in which Texas courts ruled that trans woman Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton could not sue Dr. Mark Prange for malpractice in the death of her husband, Jonathan Mark Littleton because Christie Lee was was a biological male, despite her gender reassignment surgery, and Texas did not recognize same-sex marriage. While the ruling caused problems for trans women trying to marry men, transgender lesbians were able to use it to their advantage in marrying their female partners.

Christie Lee later married a second time, to Pierre Van De Putte. She died March 15, 2014, at age 61.

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