Judge to rule this week in Nikki Araguz case

Nikki Araguz

Transgender widow vows appeal if she loses case

JUAN A. LOZANO  |  Associated Press

WHARTON, Texas — The transgender widow of a Texas firefighter will likely learn next week whether his family’s request to nullify their marriage and strip her of any death benefits will be granted, a judge said Friday.

State District Judge Randy Clapp made the announcement after hearing arguments in a lawsuit filed by the family of firefighter Thomas Araguz III, who was killed while battling a blaze last year. The suit argues that his widow shouldn’t get any benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

The widow, Nikki Araguz, said she had done everything medically and legally possible to show that she is female and was legally married under Texas law. She believes that she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

“I believe the judge is going to rule in my favor,” Araguz said after the court hearing.

The lawsuit seeks control over death benefits and assets totaling more than $600,000, which the firefighter’s family wants to go to his two sons from a previous marriage. Voiding the marriage would prevent Nikki Araguz from receiving any insurance or death benefits or property the couple had together.

Thomas Araguz died while fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton, about 60 miles southwest of Houston, in July 2010. He was 30.

His mother, Simona Longoria, filed a lawsuit asking that her son’s marriage be voided. She and her family have said he learned of his wife’s gender history just prior to his death, and after he found out, he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage.

But Nikki Araguz, 35, has insisted that her husband was aware she was born a man and that he fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008.

Longoria’s attorney, Chad Ellis, argued that Texas law — specifically a 1999 appeals court ruling that stated chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender — supports his client’s efforts to void the marriage.

The ruling upheld a lower court’s decision that threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a San Antonio woman, Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton, after her husband’s death. The court said that although Littleton had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man, based on her original birth certificate, and therefore her marriage and wrongful death claim were invalid.

Ellis presented medical and school records that he said showed Nikki Araguz was born without female reproductive organs and that she presented herself as a male while growing up and going to school. He also said her birth certificate at the time of her marriage indicated she was a man.

“By law, two males cannot be married in this state,” Ellis told the judge.

Nikki Araguz, who was born in California, did not change her birth certificate to reflect she had become a female until after her husband’s death, said Edward Burwell, one of the attorneys for Thomas Araguz’s ex-wife, Heather Delgado, the mother of his two children.

But one of Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Darrell Steidley, said that when his client got her marriage license, she presented the necessary legal documents to show she was a female. He also noted changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed people to present numerous alternatives to a birth certificate as the proof of identity needed to get a marriage license. That was an example, he argued, of the state trying to move away from the 1999 appeals court ruling.

The changes in 2009 allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. The Texas Legislature is currently considering a bill that would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married.

After the hearing, the firefighter’s family and attorneys for his ex-wife criticized plans by Nikki Araguz to star in a reality television dating show and implied she was only interested in money and fame that the case would bring her.

“That is absurd,” Nikki Araguz said in response. “I’m after my civil equality and the rights that I deserve as the wife of a fallen firefighter.”

If the judge rules against the firefighter’s family in their motion for a summary judgment, the case would then proceed to trial. Araguz said if the judge rules against her, she would appeal, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

—  John Wright

Must The Dallas Morning News Publish ‘Married By Skype’ Couple Mark + Dante Walkup’s Wedding Announcement?

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, the Texas couple who used Skype to get gay married via D.C., are pissed the Dallas Morning News won't print their wedding announcement. Except the newspaper says it will — in a separate but equal arrangement.

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Queerty

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Catholic University Dumps Gay Staffer Over Wedding Announcement

Laine Tadlock, the education program director at Benedictine University in Springfield, lost her job because she mentioned it in an announcement of her marriage to her partner Kae Helstrom in The State Journal-Register, that newspaper reports:

Tadlock Tadlock left the program Oct. 28. The university says Tadlock resigned. Tadlock says she didn’t.

The wedding announcement, which included Tadlock’s position at Benedictine, a Catholic-sponsored university, appeared in the newspaper July 11.

In a Sept. 30 letter to Tadlock’s attorney, Benedictine President William Carroll wrote, “… By publicizing the marriage ceremony in which she participated in Iowa she has significantly disregarded and flouted core religious beliefs which, as a Catholic institution, it is our mission to uphold.”

*****

According to documents Tadlock furnished to the newspaper, the university offered her an early retirement deal Aug. 27 under which she would have been paid one year’s salary, two-thirds of her salary the second year and one-third the third year. The offer also included a confidentiality clause prohibiting Tadlock from talking publicly about what had happened, as well as a waiver prohibiting her from filing suit against Benedictine.

Tadlock and her attorney, Richard Frazier of Springfield, made a counter-offer. They were told there would be no negotiations, Tadlock said. She refused the university’s early retirement offer.

In a Sept. 7 e-mail and letter to Frazier, Wolf wrote that if Tadlock would not accept early retirement, then “most likely (the university) will decide to terminate your employment due to incompatibility with the University’s essential mission.” The e-mail was also sent to Carroll and Bromberg.

The University knew about the marriage, but forced Tadlock out over the mention of Benedictine in the announcement.


Towleroad News #gay

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Refusing Gay Wedding Announcement Doesn’t Make Union Leader Anti-Gay, Insists Clueless Publisher

Just because the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state's largest circulation newspaper, won't run the same-sex wedding announcement of Greg Gould and Aurelio Tiné doesn't make the newspaper "anti-gay," claims its publisher Joseph W. McQuaid. It's just that gay marriage was never decided on by voters, and thus the paper remains firmly entrenched in the belief that marriage is for likely-to-divorce male and female couples only.

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Queerty

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Gay Couple Denied Wedding Announcement by Major NH Newspaper

Nh

Dan Savage points us to this unfortunate story from New Hampshire.

Greg and Aurelio, who are marrying this weekend in Manchester, New Hampshire, where same-sex marriage became legal on January 1, are being denied a wedding announcement by the Union-Leader, New Hampshire's second-largest paper.

Kate Parker writes:

The wedding is this Saturday and I received a phone call from Greg yesterday letting me know that he tried to get their wedding announced in the Union Leader, since Greg was from the Manchester, NH area.  He was told that they don’t allow gay weddings to be announced and he asked to talk to the editor.  The editor simply told him it has been the “policy of the newspaper” and that as the editor, he has the write to print whatever he’d like.  This immediately outraged me, as Greg and Aurelio are legally allowed to marry in NH, NH has anti-discrimination laws in place that include sexual orientation, but because of the 1st Amendment, they were out of luck.

This is where this story gets so much more upsetting, and I thank Greg and Aurelio for allowing me to share their situation:

Aurelio is in the process of becoming a US citizen.  He has his social security number, and his driver’s license.  Venezuela is a very conservative country and many citizens don’t support gay marriage or homosexuality in general.  Actually, this fact is so true, that half of Aurelio’s family just discovered he was gay when we sent their wedding invitation to them last week.  Because of this fact, Greg and Aurelio wanted to make their wedding as public as possible in the US in order to plead to a judge to allow him to stay in the US for fear of his safety from his countrymen should be return to Venezuela as an openly gay man.

Contact information for the Union-Leader, should you wish to use it, is here.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin