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Woman whose husband had sex change seeks annulment

Woman whose husband had sex change seeks annulment

The case of a Louisville, Ky., woman who sought to have her marriage annulled because her husband underwent a sex change is heading to the Kentucky court of appeals. An annulment would allow Sharon Spina, whose family operates Hays Automotive Group, to retain their marital property. She and Paul Spina married 22 years ago and had two children. He served as general counsel and a corporate officer in the business that owns Louisville's Town and Country Ford and eight other dealerships. Last year the company sold nearly 30,000 cars in three states and had revenues of almost $400 million. But Paul Spina left in 1999 after a stock dispute with his father-in-law, William Hays Sr. "Everything went along fine," said one of Spina's lawyers, Gregg Hovious, "until Paul became Paula." Spina had a sex-change operation in May 2003, adopted a new first name, and changed his passport and driver's license. Six months later Sharon Spina chose not to seek a divorce but rather an annulment, which would invalidate the marriage from its start. In court documents she contends that the marriage should be annulled because her husband represented himself as a man when psychologically he knew all along he was a woman--and that he wed her only to get his hands on her family's fortune. She concedes that her husband was anatomically male until the surgery, but she argues that his failure to disclose his gender identity before the wedding constitutes "a fraud involving the essentials of marriage." Spina also seeks to have the marriage invalidated under Kentucky's 1998 law that bans same-sex marriages. "Simply put, it is Sharon's position that Paula has always been a female," said her lawyer, Ann Oldfather, in court documents that note her husband admitted in recent years that he knew since he was 3 years old that he should have been a woman. Attorneys for Paula Spina say it is "patently ridiculous" to try to apply the same-sex marriage law to a union that took place 16 years before the statute was enacted. They won the first round in court on April 28, when Jefferson County family court judge Eleanore Garber dismissed Sharon Spina's petition. She has appealed. Garber said in her ruling she couldn't find an instance in which any court had annulled a long marriage involving a spouse who had procreated during the union but later had a sex-change operation. "Given that Paula was biologically male when he married, and lived the male life, I would be surprised if any court, conservative or liberal, would rule the marriage was invalid," said Julie Greenberg, who leads the American Bar Association's International Committee on Issues Relating to Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Meanwhile, Paula Spina said she still loves her wife. "That's the hardest part of this all," she said. "We could have resolved everything and remained friends."

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