WATCH: Trans widow Nikki Araguz denied marriage license

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Transgender widow Nikki Araguz, who plans to marry her fiancé on Wednesday after an appeals court hears her case, was denied a marriage license in Harris County.

Araguz applied late last week and was accompanied by a film crew for a documentary about her story. But Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, after conferring with the Harris County attorney, denied her marriage license application because of Texas’ marriage amendment.

It’s the same argument that lost Araguz her case in 2011, leading to her appeal. A Houston judge said that because she originally identified as male on her California birth certificate, Texas still views her as a male, and recognizing her marriage to her late husband, or now her fiancé, is against Texas law.

“Unfortunately we’re not going to be able to issue this,” Stanart told Araguz.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Activists across Texas stage marriage equality demonstrations on Valentine’s Day

In his post about Tuesday’s Valentine’s Day marriage equality demonstration in Dallas, David Taffet mentioned that three activists were arrested Tuesday during a similar action in Austin. Daniel Cates, a GetEQUAL organizer from Dallas, sent over the below video of the Austin activists singing a rousing rendition of “I’m gonna stand at the marriage counter …” while seated on the floor of the clerk’s office prior to their arrests. Raw Story has a full report.

In Fort Worth, WFAA reports that a lesbian couple was denied a marriage license on Tuesday afternoon.

In San Antonio, same -sex couples participated in a midnight mass wedding conducted annually by Baptist minister Joe Sullivan at the Bexar County Courthouse, despite Sullivan’s warning that they would face “acts of vengeance.” QSanAntonio quotes activist Julie Pousson, who attended the event: “Minister Joe Sullivan said that our couples were there ‘solely to be repulsive,’ and he threatened them with acts of vengeance on the part of God if they did not leave the courthouse steps. Our beautiful couples stood their ground for more than five minutes of hate speech and contradictory logic from the good minister before he finally relented and performed the wedding.”

And in Houston, after being denied marriage licenses at the clerk’s office, a group of roughly 30 activists marched to City Hall, where openly gay Mayor Annise Parker delivered a proclamation honoring Freedom to Marry Day. KPRC has video, and the Houston Chronicle reports:

—  John Wright

Marrying for love, marching for equality

Dallas lesbian couple 1 of at least 5 couples participating in a marriage equality march and mass wedding Saturday in downtown Dallas

OLD FASHIONED WEDDING | Ashlyn Jones, left, and Amanda Evans will participate in a mass wedding in Founders Plaza in Downtown Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 15, as part of a demonstration for marriage equality.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Ashlyn Jones and Amanda Evans are getting married in downtown Dallas this weekend. They invited 50 of their friends, but would like everyone to attend.

“I want people I don’t even know to come and say, ‘Congratulations,’” Jones said. “That would be awesome.”

Jones and Evans are one of at least five couples that will participate in a mass wedding on Saturday evening at Founder’s Plaza in front of the Dallas County Records Building, as part of a protest in support of marriage equality.

Event organizer Daniel Cates said the couples are encouraged to apply for a marriage license inside the Records Building earlier in the week, even though those applications will be denied.

Similar events sponsored by GetEQUAL and P-FLAG are being held in about 10 cities across the state. In addition to the major cities, Harlingen, Brownsville, Huntsville and Odessa also have marriage equality events planned.

Cates said that while Texas is not close to granting marriage equality, LGBT Texans must demand the right.

“Since the New York marriage victory, people in other states are fighting back,” Cates said. “Once we lost the marriage battle here, we stopped fighting.”

Jones said that the Saturday wedding ceremony will also be a celebration of their five-year anniversary as a couple.

“In front of all of our friends, we’ll tell each other that we love each other,” Jones said.

The couple met in high school, and “When we met, it was electricity,” Jones said.

But the two kept their relationship a secret for three years. Their school had no gay-straight alliance, although they attended Teen Project in downtown Fort Worth until that group shut its doors.

When the couple told their parents they were lesbians, Jones said she and Evans were shunned by their families. Although relations have gotten better, none of their family members will be attending the wedding.
Jones said she expects marriage equality to come to Texas

eventually, “But I think it’s an uphill battle.”

Jones said she works for a very conservative company with very conservative customers, and “I had a customer walk out when she heard me talk about my wedding.”

After the downtown event, Jones said she and Evans and their friends will go to Chili’s to celebrate and then the couple will leave on their honeymoon. They’re going to Granbury to relax and get away from work, she said.

“We talked about following this up with a New York wedding,” Jones said. And then she’d like to come home and just be accepted.

“I would love to be able to hold my wife’s hand in a mall without a mother coming up to me and telling me it’s wrong to do that in front of her children,” she said.

Cates said that couples who would like to participate in the wedding ceremony should arrive at 4 p.m. for a short rehearsal. At 4:30 p.m. there will be an open mike for 30 minutes before a sidewalk march.

Cates said that a street permit was denied because the police are stretched thin with the State Fair of Texas and the Occupy Dallas protests. Sidewalk marches require fewer officers.

After the march, two people will speak before the mass wedding takes place. Richard Curtin, better known as Edna Jean Robinson, will officiate. He will conduct a “white knot” ceremony rather than have the couples exchange rings.  The white knot, a symbol of marriage equality, represents tying the knot.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

FAMILY LIFE: Glossary of legal terms

Attorney Rebecca Covell says that to secure the same rights a legally married couple gets with a marriage license, there are six documents same-sex couples need: a medical power of attorney, a statutory durable power of attorney, a declaration of guardianship, a directive to physicians, an appointment of agent to control disposition of remains and a will.

Here are a few basic definitions of those documents, according to Covell:

• Medical power of attorney: This document allows a person to designate an individual who will have the authority to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unconscious, mentally incompetent or otherwise unable to make such decisions.

• Declaration of Guardianship: This designates who gets control over the future guardianship of a couple’s children.

• Statutory durable power of attorney: This documents allows a person to give their partner permission to make business decisions in the event that they are incapable, including decisions on buying or selling property, paying bills, handling insurance and dealing with the IRS.

• Directive to physicians: This document allows a person with a terminal illness or other irreversible medical condition to detail their wishes on end-of-life care.

Appointment of agent to control disposition of remains: Legally, after death, a person’s body belongs to their legally recognized next of kin. This document allows a person to designate the person who they want to make funeral or memorial arrangements and decisions about the care of their body.

• Will: When a person dies without a will, all their property and possessions automatically go to their legal next of kin. With a will, an individual can designate their beneficiary, who is in charge of their estate, make special for provisions for surviving children or a survivor with special needs. A will also allows an individual to designate when specific people will receive specific assets.

Attorneys Christopher Farish and Julie Quaid say that it is imperative that same-sex couples prepare for the future in terms of their finances. In addition to having a will, it is also important for those in same-sex relationships to list their partner as a beneficiary in 401K, IRA and pension if an employer allows same-sex partners to be eligible for spousal benefits.

Make sure to check with company policies on these matters, in advance, the attorneys said.

Here are a few basic definitions of these documents, according to Farish and Quaid:

• 401K: This allows an employee to place money in an account for retirement. The employee can name the beneficiary with 401K plans, regardless of sex or marital status.

• IRA: An IRA, or individual retirement account, is money set aside that has already been taxed. These plans are designed for people who don’t have access to a 401K plan and so are less structured than a 401K. Whereas a 401K plan is provided by a person’s employer, an IRA is something indviduals own. An individual can designate their same-sex partner as the beneficiary of their IRA.

• Pensions: Pensions are regulated, and most of those are available only to a person’s legal surviving spouse. Pension plans, however, are specific to individual companies, and policies are not consistent from one employers to the next. Employers’ pension plan regulations may say specifically say “spouse,” and some may have policies that exclude a same-sex partner as a beneficiary because Texas has a constitutional amendment prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

— Draconis von Trapp

—  John Wright

Report: Gay Dallas couple’s Skype wedding declared invalid by District of Columbia

Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

We’ve got a message in to Mark Reed-Walkup to try to confirm what we just read at TBD.com, which is reporting that Reed-Walkup’s recent Skype wedding has been declared invalid by the District of Columbia.

If you’ll remember, Reed-Walkup and his longtime partner, Dante Walkup, were married in October in a ceremony that was held in Dallas but officiated via Skype from D.C. Reed-Walkup told us previously that officials in D.C. had found nothing in the law that would prohibit such an e-marriage, but apparently they’ve change their minds. Amanda Hess reports at TBD.com:

On Oct. 10, Mark Reed and Dante Walkup made history by marrying in D.C. (where same-sex marriage is legal) at a ceremony in Texas (where it isn’t). The arrangement took some technological finesse: As Reed and Walkup exchanged vows in a Dallas hotel, D.C. marriage officiant Sheila Alexander-Reid oversaw the ceremony from the District, linking up with the couple online via Skype. The “e-marriage” inspired coverage in the Washington Post, CNN, and Time magazine. Now, it’s caught the attention of the D.C. marriage bureau.

“The D.C. marriage bureau kicked back the certificate we had filed,” Alexander-Reid told me today. Alexander-Reid says that she and the couple both received letters from D.C. Superior Court stating that it had determined the marriage license filed following the Skype ceremony to be invalid.

“The return is invalid because it has come to the attention of the court that the subject contracting parties to the marriage and you, the officiant, did not all personally participate in a marriage ceremony performed within the jurisdictional and territorial limits of the District of Columbia,” the letter reads. Alexander-Reid also received a fresh marriage license from the court. Alexander-Reid could use it to re-officiate a Reed-Walkup ceremony, should they choose to marry again in D.C., this time “with all parties . . . in physical attendance.”

UPDATE: Reed-Walkup reports via text message that he’ll call Instant Tea back as soon as he’s done with a CNN interview.

—  John Wright

Stay of Prop 8 ruling prompts protests on a day when gay marriages would have resumed

Nine protesters were arrested Thursday morning following a sit-in at the San Diego County Clerk’s Office, where a gay couple requested a marriage license. The couple had scheduled their appointment prior to a federal appeals court’s decision earlier this week to put same-sex marriages on hold until at least December. Sheriff’s deputies eventually showed up in full riot gear (shown above) to arrest the nine protesters, who are members of the San Diego Alliance for Marriage Equality. More pics from the protest can be found here. According to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, supporters have called an emergency rally for 5 p.m. outside the jail to protest the arrests and demand the activists’ immediate release.

Meanwhile, up the road in West Hollywood, a rally is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday night at Santa Monica Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd. From the Facebook event page:

Although Judge Walker’s decision was a victory for Prop 8 opponents, the fight is NOT over. Do not let that victorious feeling make you complacent! Let it be known that we will remain vigilant and active until marriage equality is restored in California!

UPDATE: Here’s some video of the San Diego protest:

—  John Wright

Abbott declines to issue opinion on marriage controversy in El Paso

Attorney General Greg Abbott

El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal’s office sent Dallas Voice a copy of a letter from Attorney General Greg Abbott. His office has formally declined to issue a legal opinion regarding the granting of marriage licenses to individuals who have undergone sex change operations.

She wrote, “On April 19, 2010 El Paso County Attorney’s Office requested a legal opinion as to whether the County Clerk could legally issue a marriage license under a new Texas law when one of the parties is a female and the other was born a man but subsequently underwent sexual reassignment surgery and is now living as a woman.”

Her office asked the attorney general for guidance after two women requested a marriage license earlier this year in El Paso. One of the applicants presented a birth certificate identifying her as a male, a court order approving his name change from a male to female, and an Arizona driver’s license with her new identity as a female.

El Paso denied the application for the marriage license because of the conflicting documents.

Abbot wrote, “It is the policy of this office to refrain from issuing an attorney general opinion on a question that we know to be the subject of pending litigation. … This policy, which has been in effect for more than sixty years, is based on the fact that attorney general opinions, unlike those issued by courts of law, are advisory in nature. By contrast, court decisions are binding …”

Funny, although courts ruled in same-sex divorce cases, Abbott intervened to stop those despite the “binding” decisions of the courts. In this case, however, the marriage license was already denied, giving him the victory he wanted without intervening.

—  David Taffet

First gay couples marry in Argentina

VICENTE PANETTA  |  Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — After a 27-year courtship, two men on Friday, July 30 became the first gay couple to wed under Argentina’s historic same-sex marriage law — the first of its kind for a Latin American nation.

Jose Luis Navarro, 54, and Miguel Angel Calefato, 65, tied the knot in provincial Santiago del Estero in an early morning ceremony where a civil registry official used a pen to cross out “man and woman” on the marriage license and wrote in “contracting parties.”

“Respect has prevailed over prejudice,” Navarro, an architect, told the newspaper El Liberal.

He said he met his new husband, now a retired office worker, while vacationing at a beach resort nearly three decades ago, and “there was chemistry from the first moment.”

Argentina became the first country in Latin America to permit gay marriage after President Cristina Fernandez signed the law July 21. The legislation was passed by both houses of Congress despite fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.

The law declares that wedded gay and lesbian couples have all the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual marriages, including the right to inheritance and to jointly adopt children.

Elsewhere in Latin America, gay marriage is also allowed in Mexico City, while same-sex civil unions granting some rights are legal in Uruguay and in some states in Mexico and Brazil. Colombia’s Constitutional Court has granted same-sex couples inheritance rights and allowed them to add their partners to health insurance plans.

Nine same-sex couples also married in Argentina before the law passed, having successfully petitioning judges for the right. But some of those weddings had been challenged in courts.

Navarro and Calefato’s wedding was the first of many expected in coming weeks. Hours later, agent Alejandro Vanelli and actor Ernesto Larrese said “I do” in the capital, Buenos Aires, after 34 years as partners.

“What comes now is more love, more freedom, and that can’t be anything but positive,” Larrese said.

At least three more same-sex marriages are scheduled for the weekend.

Mexico City tourism officials have offered a free honeymoon as a gift to the first couple to marry in Argentina, but Navarro said he and Calefato were reluctant to accept.

“It seems superficial to think of marrying just to win a prize,” Navarro said.

—  John Wright