Best Bets • 09.09.11

Saturday 09.10OCP

Forest through the trees
When Jay Maggio paints, it’s hard to not take a look. His tree-scapes are textural and impressionistic but with cool, modern touches. In other words, we likey. Craighead Green presents a three-artist exhibit including Maggio, Heather Gorham and Arturo Mallman. Despite different perspectives,their works are quite cohesive.

DEETS: Craighead Green Gallery,
1011 Dragon St. Through Oct. 8.
CraigheadGreen.com

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Saturday 09.10

Splash the day away
It used to be splashing people with water balloons was reason to get grounded by the parents. Now it’s for all the right reasons. The LifeWalk Waterpalooza dodgeball tourney returns, with teams duking it out with water balloons to benefit AIDS Arms.

DEETS: Station 4 parking lot,
3911 Cedar Springs Road. 1 p.m.
LifeWalk.org.

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Thursday 09.15

Southern belles
For The Women’s Chorus of Dallas to snag the Secret Sisters for the Southern Harmony Party is quite a feat. And if it benefits the chorus, well that’s not so bad either.

DEETS: Lakewood Theater,
1825 Abrams Parkway. 8 p.m. $25–$50.
TWCD.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

Heather Might Have Two Mommies, But Andy Has Two Gay Uncles Getting Married

I generally like the ability to use crayons with my children's books, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy My Uncle's Wedding, a 34-page read — released this week for kids aged 4-8 — that follows wee Andy as he attends the nuptials of Uncle Mike and Steve. I'll forgive author Eric Ross making use of the gay uncle stereotype (everyone has gay uncles, apparently, but not gay moms and dads), but only because Mike and Steve look so happy. It's $ 10.99, if you're interested. [MyUnclesWedding]


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Queerty

—  David Taffet

WATCH: N. Dallas High School doesn’t want you to know if trans student won homecoming vote

North Dallas High School isn’t releasing the results of the vote for homecoming queen, saying the information is confidential. So we have no way of knowing for sure whether transgender student Andy Moreno had enough votes to be a finalist for homecoming queen. But Andy’s running mate on the ballot, her MTF transgender friend, is one of three finalists for homecoming king. So it’s likely that Andy was also one of the top three vote-getters, but Principal Dinnah Escanilla is stubbornly sticking to her terrible decision not to allow Andy to run for queen. What’s worse, the Dallas Independent School District continues to allow Escanilla’s blatant discrimination, making us wonder what would happen if the principal required the homecoming queen to be of a certain race.

Fox 4 has been following this story closely, and it’s been the No. 1 most read article on their site both last week and today. But why does Fox 4 reporter Sophia Reza suddenly begin referring to Andy as a “he” and “him” halfway through her report, almost as though she’s mimicking students who do the same thing? And why does anchor Heather Hays seem to have such a hard time understanding the simple fact that Andy identifies as a girl, not a boy?

Andy, who has a new hair-do and looks stunningly beautiful in the interview, says she plans to talk to the principal about the homecoming vote, but as of now, she has no plans to sue despite being approached by some lawyers. She’ll be attending the homecoming dance in a dress and heels this weekend, which Hays also seems worried about. Hays asks whether the school has a dress code — such as one prohibiting low-cut dresses — that would also bar Andy from wearing a dress at all.

“Well then they should have less of a problem with me coming in a low-cut dress, because I’m sorry, but what’s going to pop out of my top?” Moreno responds.

You’ve gotta absolutely love this girl.

—  John Wright

Ailing woman seeks home for cats

When a member of the community calls and asks for help, we like to respond. Rita Smith has had some health problems and is having to move from her house. She asked if we could help place some of her cats.

Abby

Abby is a black and white, 3-year-old neutered male. She found him when he was two weeks old wedged between milk cartons in the garage.

Tiger won’t come out of the closet.

Rita thinks Tiger needs to be an only cat. He’s a 7-pound tabby and he’s camera shy. He followed her around the yard as a kitten until she brought him in the house. Now he hides in the closet because the other cats picked on him.

Jojo, Slate and Heather are siblings. All are solid gray and just 1 year old. She said they could go together or separately. A neighbor dumped them on her doorstep when they were two weeks old. All three are spayed/neutered.

If you can give any of her pets a home, call Rita at 214-363-1087.

Jojo
Slate

—  David Taffet