By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com December 06 2011 5:28 PM ET
A Dallas County judge has declined to void the marriage of a
transgender man to a woman — an outcome far different, and more
positive for trans people, from that in some high-profile Texas cases.
Lori Chrisman Hockett last week refused to nullify the marriage of
James Allan Scott and Rebecca Louise Robertson; Robertson had sought the
nullification on the basis that Scott was born biologically female and
Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage, the Dallas Voice
reports. She instead ruled that their breakup should proceed as a
divorce — which will allow Scott, who is physically disabled from
scoliosis, a chance at a fair share of the couple’s property, said his
lawyer, Eric Gormly.
“To our knowledge, this is the first time
any Texas court has ruled that a transsexual man who marries a
biological woman is in a legitimate marriage,” Gormly told the Voice.
and Robertson separated in 2010 after 12 years of marriage. When they
married, Robertson was fully aware and supportive of Scott’s
transgender status, according to court records. He has undergone
hormone therapy and surgical gender-reassignment procedures, although
not a phalloplasty, which the Voice describes as “an expensive,
imperfect and dangerous procedure.” He has obtained a corrected birth
certificate from his native state of Iowa identifying him as male. But
Robertson petitioned in September 2010 to have the marriage voided, and Scott
filed a counterpetition for divorce in February.
Texas case, Nikki Araguz, a transgender woman, has been seeking a share
of her late husband’s death benefits; he was a firefighter killed on
the job. A Wharton County judge has ruled their marriage void because
Nikki was born biologically male; the case is on appeal. In a 1999 case
the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that a transgender woman did not have
the standing to file a wrongful death claim after her husband died during
surgery, saying gender is assigned at birth and cannot be changed, and therefore their marriage was invalid.
Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights,
tells The Advocate most states have long recognized the right of
transgender people to marry in their confirmed gender, but a small
number of judges in conservative states have been resistant, leading to
rulings like the latter two.