Transsexual widow Nikki Araguz plans to appeal a state district judge’s ruling last week declaring her marriage invalid and denying her death benefits from her husband.
Judge Randy Clapp, of the 329th Judicial District Court in Wharton County, ruled May 24 that Nikki Araguz is not entitled to death benefits from Thomas Araguz, a volunteer firefighter who was killed in the line of duty last year.
Clapp declared the Araguzes’ marriage invalid because he said Nikki Araguz was born male and Texas law prohibits same-sex marriage.
In a press release sent out this afternoon, Nikki Araguz’s attorneys, Frye and Associates, announced that they plan to appeal Clapp’s decision to the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi “in a timely manner.”
Nikki Araguz also issued her own press release, saying she is “completely devastated” by Clapp’s ruling and providing background about her marriage and the court case.
We’ve posted both press releases in their entirety after the jump.
OFFICES OF FRYE AND ASSOCIATES
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Houston, Texas – The law firm of Frye and Associates, representing Nikki Paige Araguz in her legal quest for the sanctity of her marriage to Thomas Araguz, is disappointed with the decision from the 329th Judicial District Court in Wharton County. The decision denies Mrs. Araguz a portion of the death benefits allotted to the surviving spouse of Texas firefighters who die in the line of duty. Our law firm asserted, and still believes, that the Texas Legislature’s 2009 amendment to the Family Code in Section 2.005 (which allows a court ordered sex change to be used as proof of identity for the purposes of obtaining a marriage license) effected a legislative override of the 1999 Littleton v Prange case (which said that legal sex, for the purpose of marriage, is determined by a presumption that chromosomes are established at birth and cannot ever be legally changed). Our assertions were presented to the District Court in our written response along with the affidavits from our legal expert and our medical expert. These three documents – all public records – will be posted on the homepage of our www.liberatinglaw.com web site by Friday, June 3rd. An appeal with the Texas Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, Texas, will be filed by our firm on behalf of Mrs. Araguz in a timely manner.
Nikki Araguz’ “Devastated” On Hearing Texas State District Judge Randy Clapp’s Ruling Voiding Her Marriage
WHARTON, Texas – Nikki Araguz wife, and widow, of fallen firefighter Thomas Araguz said, “Both myself and my family are grateful for the out-pouring of understanding, kindness, sympathy, and support over the past year. I am completely devastated by the court ruling. I continue to grieve the loss of my husband and best friend.” She continued, “With this ruling, I continue to be reminded of the bias that exists toward transsexual and intersex people. At this time I have no further comment for the media but will be issuing a statement shortly after I have had time to consider my options for appeal.”
- Nikki Araguz officially changed her name in 1996.
- Husband Thomas Araguz knew everything about Nikki’s personal history.
- Nikki Araguz underwent medical and surgical procedures in 2008 to change her sex from male to female.
- Nikki and Thomas Araguz were married in 2008.
- Captain Thomas Araguz died in the line of duty while fighting a fire at an egg farm in Boling, Texas on July 3rd 2010.
- Thomas Araguz was buried July 11th
- On July 12th the Araguz family filed lawsuits against Nikki Araguz in an attempt to take her benefits as a Firefighter’s spouse
- Thomas Araguz died without a will and under Texas law, probate courts typically divide a decedent’s assets and benefits between the spouse and children.
After Nikki’s husband passed away, her life drastically changed. She and Thomas lived in a small Texas community, attended church, loved each other, and Thomas’ two sons. Nikki’s long-time career in advertising and publishing led to the support of local business in her family-friendly, community-focused magazine called Wharton County Living. Thomas attended Wharton County College, as Nikki worked, to earn certifications in the Police Academy, Fire Academy and as an EMT. They spent weekends as a family, often with Thomas’ parents, grandparents or Nikki’s family.
On July 3, when Captain Araguz answered the call to fight the raging Boling fire, Nikki was out of town – sadly, not one person in Thomas’ family contacted his wife to let her know he was missing. Nikki learned that the love of her life was lost in a fire from a posting on a social networking site – another fireman’s wife broke the tragic news that Thomas was gone. In a state of shock, Nikki drove home – only to be outcast by her in-laws, kept from seeing her stepchildren, and treated as if she were a stranger. On that horrific day, she not only lost her husband and best friend, she lost her entire family, home life, and what she thought was a loving relationship with Thomas’ family.
Thomas was buried on July 11 – the next morning, Nikki was devastated to learn that two separate lawsuits had been filed, in an attempt to take Nikki’s benefits as a Firefighter’s spouse, away from her. Thomas specifically named her as beneficiary in one instance – leaving no question his intention that his wife, Nikki, and two sons, be economically secure, without financial worry – if he were called by God too early.
The tragedy of Thomas’ heroic death has been amplified by allegations and lawsuits filed by his mother and ex-wife, resulting in national public interest and media attention. Certainly world-wide attention would have been averted without civil litigation – Nikki could have quietly mourned her husband’s death. Instead, she faced legal and emotional battles that NO surviving spouse should ever have to fight. After being forced into the spotlight, she is now working on a documentary, Courting Nikki, a reality show called Being Nikki, a dramatized adaptation for LMN and an autobiography. She is also an activist for equality and civil rights as well as a speaker and inspiration to many.