Firefighter’s transgender widow says they were married before she had sex-reassignment surgery

Posted on 20 Jul 2010 at 11:52am


Since we posted this item yesterday about the transgender widow of a fallen firefighter near Houston, the story has gone national, but as far as we can tell, the local ABC affiliate is the only media outlet that’s actually talked to the widow, Nikki Araguz:

Thomas Araguz was a volunteer firefighter. He died in a blaze at an egg farm July 4 near Boling. The fire was ruled accidental.

His mother, Simona Rodriguez Longoria, and ex-wife, Heather Delgado, have filed suit at the Wharton County Courthouse, claiming he did not know Nikki had been born a man.

Citing the state constitution and family code, they allege the marriage should be declared void because they “…were members of the same sex.”

Nikki Araguz finds that preposterous.

“No one knew him better than I did,” she told us. “No one knew me better than he did.”

Araguz says her husband knew fully that she was born a man. She says they were married at the time she physically became a woman.

“He was with me through the operation,” she told us. “He didn’t physically go with me, but we were already married prior to the operation.”

But Attorney Frank Mann has a different take. He represents Araguz’s ex-wife.

“She deceived Thomas into marrying her,” he said. Mann says he confronted Thomas Araguz with Nikki’s original birth certificate — and original name — during a deposition just two months ago. “He was shocked to learn to see the birth certificate that I had. I had a certified copy of Nikki’s birth certificate,” Mann said. “I deposed him first and asked him questions, and basically, he was shocked to learn he was a man.”

We’re still wondering how the question of whether Mr. Araguz knew his wife was transgender is even relevant to the question of whether she should receive death benefits.

But if it’s true that she had surgery after they were married, it seems she could easily prove it with medical records. It’s quite possible that Mr. Araguz knew she was transgender but lied about this knowledge publicly — and to family and friends — to avoid embarrassment.

Unfortunately, none of this addresses the real problem behind the lawsuit — Texas’ convoluted and archaic hodgepodge of statutes and case law concerning the subject.

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