Two Trans Men Come Away With Major Court Victories

Two of the country's most well-known trans men were recently involved in separate but similar legal battles involving the validity of their marriages.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

August 14 2014 1:12 PM ET

Nancy J. Beatie and Thomas Beatie, with their three children (from left) Jensen, Austin, and Susan. 

After the legality of their marriages to women were brought into question, two transgender men received good news this week: they can get divorced.

Yesterday, an Arizona Appeals Court declared that the marriage of Thomas Beatie and Nancy J. Beatie was valid. The couple, who have been seeking a divorce, were initially denied the ability to dissolve their marriage when a lower court ruled Thomas and Nancy a same-sex couple, making their marriage invalid under the state's ban on such unions.

The lower court's ruling cited the fact that Thomas Beatie had given birth to the couple's children as rationale for declaring the marriage invalid. The appellate court ruling discounts that reasoning, declaring that Beatie should not have had to be sterilized in order to be legally recognized as a man in Arizona or Hawaii.

The Beatie decision comes a week after the California Superior Court ruled that the marriage of Jake Miller — better known as Buck Angel — and Elayne Angel was valid. The couple were married in Louisiana after Buck had received a California court order recognizing him as male, though he did not update his birth certificate until some years later.

In an effort to avoid having to pay Buck spousal support in the divorce, Elayne advanced the argument that the marriage should never have been legally recognized on the grounds that Buck's birth certificate was not updated until after they were married. The Superior Court disagreed, ruling that Buck's gender — and by extension, marriage — is legitimate and should be legally recognized.

These rulings serve to clarify the often vague legal status of trans marriages. Late last year, an Indiana court overruled a judge who had declared that legally changing one's gender invalidates their marriage. Similarly, the ongoing saga of Nikki Araguz, a transgender woman in Texas who was widowed after her late husband, a firefighter, died in the line of duty, has become one of the most-watched trans marriage cases in the country.

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