A Wharton county, Texas, Judge recently ruled that a transgender widow’s marriage to a Wharton Firefighter was not legal at the time of the firefighter’s death, leaving the widow ineligible to receive her husband’s death benefits.
Firefighter Thomas Araguz died in the Line of Duty during a fire at an egg farm in Wharton, in July 2010. He was 30.
The Firefighter married Nikki Araguz, a male to female transgendered person in 2008, but District Judge Randy Clapp has since ruled their marriage invalid because the state of Texas does not recognize same sex marriages. The state is not considering the widow’s sex change as a factor, and is determining gender using chromosomes, in accordance with a precedent set in a 1999 appeals court case.
The firefighter’s first wife, Heather Delgado, and his mother, who originally filed the lawsuit, are looking to gain the more than $600,000 in death benefits, according to the Associated Press.
The widow tried to prove herself female gendered in court to claim her marriage was legal, but she was unsuccessful. Araguz and her lawyers plan to appeal the case, according to chron.com.
“Both myself and my family are grateful for the outpouring of understanding, kindness, sympathy, and support over the past year,” Araguz said in an issued statement. “I am totally devastated by the court ruling. At this time I have no comment for the media, but will be issuing a statement shortly after I consider my options.”
The firefighter’s mother, Simona Longoria, claimed to have learned about Araguz’s sex change just before her son’s death, and claimed that her son was unaware of his wife’s status and left their home when he found out.
Araguz argued that her husband knew about the sex change, and supported her completely throughout the surgery. She underwent surgery two months after their marriage in 2008, according to chron.com.
Texas Family Code allows transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to obtain a marriage license, however a lower court threw out the wrongful-death case of a San Antonio woman’s husband, stating that since the widow had undergone a sex change, her marriage was not legal.