Tennessee invalidades marriage of transgender couple

Posted on 14 May 2009 at 4:07pm
By Associated Press

Rittenberry had Kentucky birth certificate, Tennessee drivers license changed based on claims of sex reassignment surgery in Canada

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee authorities have invalidated the 18-month-old marriage of a transgender couple, saying the state considers both to be men.

Jo T. Rittenberry, 46, was born a man and claims to have had sex reassignment surgery in Canada. Rittenberry had officials legally change the gender on her Kentucky birth certificate and Tennessee driver’s license, the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reported.

Rittenberry married Jeffery Scott Phillips, 36, in November 2007.

Kelly Farmer, director of communications at the Davidson County Clerk’s Office, said Tennessee authorities would not honor the marriage because Rittenberry was not born a woman.

Tennessee does not permit same-sex marriage and does not recognize gender change even after sex reassignment surgery.

"The marriage is real to me," said Rittenberry, who is also known as Terri Jo Colby. "It wasn’t anything planned to be deceptive. I’m not gay, and Jeff ain’t either."

Authorities said Rittenberry was booked into the Montgomery County Jail on March 19, charged with domestic assault against a relative and criminal impersonation stemming from allegations of credit card fraud in 2004.

The Montgomery Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ted Denny told The Associated Press on Wednesday, May 13 that Rittenberry is being housed with men and was patted down by both male and female officers because Rittenberry has breasts and male genitalia.

Rittenberry claims to have had a male-to-female genital reassignment surgery in 2003 at the clinic of Dr. Pierre Brassard and Yvon Menard in Montreal, Canada.

A medical secretary told The Associated Press on Wednesday she was not permitted to disclose whether Rittenberry is a patient or any medical information.

Rittenberry, born in Pembroke, Ky., used claims of sex change surgery to have the gender changed on the Kentucky birth certificate.

Tennessee Department of Safety spokeswoman Laura McPherson said Rittenberry presented a physician’s letter attesting to sex reassignment surgery and a certified amended birth certificate to have the gender on Rittenberry’s driver’s license changed in 2007.

Farmer said Phillips and Rittenberry’s marriage license was legally issued in November 2007 under the assumption that Rittenberry is a woman based on appearance and the driver’s license.

Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, www.theleafchronicle.com

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