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Texas appeals court overturns decision voiding marriage of transgender widow

The Thirteenth Texas Court of Appeals [official website] on Thursday vacated [opinion, PDF] a lower court's holding that Nikki Araguz, the transgender widow of a firefighter who died in 2010, was a man at the time of her marriage, thus invalidating the union. The lawsuit was originally brought by Simona Longoria, mother of Thomas Araguz, and subsequently joined by his first wife, against Nikki, seeking nullification of the marriage. The Texas district court ruled [AP report] in 2011 that the marriage was "void as a matter of law." The appeals court remanded the case on the grounds that there was a genuine issue of material fact with regards to Nikki's sex and whether her marriage was a same-sex one. Longoria claimed that Thomas only learned of his wife's gender history just prior to his death and had planned to end the marriage. Nikki instead claims that her husband had fully supported her transition. Nikki underwent gender reassignment surgery two months after the couple's marriage in 2008. The court found that further expert testimony regarding Nikki's sex was needed, and that 2009 changes to the Texas Family Codes had invalidated earlier court precedent on the matter.

The rights and identity of transgendered individuals is a topic of debate in many states and countries, with supporters claiming that gender is not necessarily tied to the sex organs one is born with, while others asserting [JURIST op-ed] that "sex is an objective, biological fact." In January the Supreme Court of Maine ruled that a school district had violated the rights of a transgender student when it tried to prevent [JURIST report] her from using the girl's bathroom. In November the group Privacy for all Students announced [JURIST report] it had obtained enough signatures to put an initiative on the November 2014 ballot to repeal the California law allowing school students to self-identify with a particular gender and to use the corresponding school facilities. In 2012 Alaska began [JURIST report] to allow transgendered individuals to begin changing their gender markers on their driver's license to more accurately reflect their gender. Just months earlier the Supreme Court denied [JURIST report] certiorari to decide the issue of whether transgendered prison inmates have a right to hormone therapy.

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