Judge bars fallen firefighter’s transgender widow from collecting, spending death benefits

Posted on 23 Jul 2010 at 11:11pm

Transgender widow Nikki Araguz is temporarily barred from collecting or spending death benefits from her husband, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty earlier this month, The Houston Chronicle reports.

The ruling was handed down Friday in a lawsuit filed against Nikki Araguz by the parents of her husband, Thomas Araguz III. Thomas Araguz’s parents allege that his marriage to Nikki Araguz is void because she was born male.

Nikki Araguz revealed in court that she has collected $60,000 so far in death benefits, which are expected to total $600,000 that would be divided between her and Thomas Araguz’s two sons from a previous marriage.

Nikki Araguz is now being represented by well-known transgender attorney Phyllis Randolph Frye.

Thomas Araguz’s parents say Nikki Araguz hid from their son her transgender status. But Nikki Araguz claims he knew and that she had sex-reassignment surgery after they were married.

(Note that the Chronicle’s story refers to Nikki Araguz as “allegedly transgendered,” and UPI has put this in its headline. We’re hoping this was nothing more than an acknowledgment on the Chronicle’s part that Nikki Araguz may in fact be intersex.)

Fox 26 News in Houston has posted the above video of Nikki Araguz talking more than 10 years ago about coming to terms with her gender identity.

The Houston-based Transgender Foundation of America is collecting donations to help cover Nikki Araguz’s legal and living expenses, since her assets have been frozen. I’ve posted the donation info, as well as the TFA’s statement from today’s hearing, after the jump.

Widow Braves Hostile Court Proceedings

Houston, Texas – July 23, 2010 – Jeers and public threats greeted Mrs. Nikki Araguz outside the Warton County Courthouse today. The Widow of Wharton County firefighter Captain Thomas Araguz, who was killed in the line of duty, was in court for the first hearing in a suit brought by Araguz’s mother, Simona Rodriguez Longoria.  The suit claims that Longoria should inherit Capt. Araguz’s widow’s benefits and all marital assets.

Longoria claims that since Mrs. Araguz was legally a male before transitioning to female, and legally changed her gender prior to her subsequent marriage to Capt. Araguz that Longoria, not Mrs. Araguz, should receive all benefits and joint property. This includes any income earned by Mrs. Araguz during the marriage. Mrs. Araguz was the principle wage earner of the couple.

Capt. Araguz’s two children from a previous marriage will receive one half of Capt. Araguz’s $600,000 firemen’s fallen hero benefit regardless of the outcome of this case. They are also entitled to free tuition at Texas State Schools, as will be their children.

Longoria today expanded her claims to the property of Mrs. Araguz, asking the court to seize funds paid by a life insurance policy to which Mrs. Araguz was the named beneficiary. Judge Clapp granted her request, adding those funds to the widow’s benefits and all marital assets currently being held in escrow.

In a victory for Mrs. Araguz, the Judge also prevented Longoria from spending any of those funds or disposing of Capt. and Mrs. Araguz’s marital assets.

Longoria said in court today that her goal was to “freeze Nikki out.” All of Mrs. Araguz’s assets are currently frozen and unavailable to her.

If you would like to help support Nikki in her hour of desperate need, donate to the TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund. The TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund not only supports Nikki’s ongoing legal battle, it also provides for her day-to-day needs. Donations can be made online at www.tiny.cc/nikkisfund. Additionally, donations may be sent to the Transgender Center at:

Transgender Foundation of America
604 Pacific
Houston, TX 77006

Make checks payable to Transgender Foundation of America. Please make sure to note that the donation is for the TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund.

Nikki’s FaceBook: www.tiny.cc/fb4nikki

Nikki’s Email: Nikki.Araguz@tgctr.org

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