Friday, May 14, 2010

Transgender marriage in Texas

Brandi Grisson a reporter for The Texas Tribune penned and published a wonderful article that discusses the same-sex marriage conundrum in which Texas.  The "conundrum"  is transgender marriages that have resulted in same-sex marriages which Texas specifically prohibited in the 2005 Amendment to the Texas Constitution?  WHAT?  Okay, let's break it down.  Same-sex marriages that are technically legal occur when one of the two female (or male) spouses were born a male (or female) or a hermaphradite who was identified as a male (or female) on his/her birth certificate.  It's confusing right?  Read her article.  It does an excellent job of explaining how Texas law has created such a conundrum.

The Texas Tribune
May 14, 2010

Their love story started with fuschia fingernail polish and black leather.  

Therese Bur got her first glimpse of Sabrina Hill — a tall, dark-haired woman decked out in leather gear and flashing those nails — at about 2 a.m. at an Arizona gas station. She was intrigued. One date later, their future was sealed.  That was 17 years ago. “Sabrina was the first person who just listened to who I was and accepted me for who I was,” Bur says. “As strange as we are, that’s important.”  

The two women are hardly the typical Texas married couple, yet their union has been blessed by the courts. That's because Hill is a transgender female: She was born with both male and female genitalia, and her father ordered surgery to make her a male. Three decades later, she would surgically reverse his decision. Today, Hill's driver’s license and a judge’s order say she’s a woman — but her birth certificate and now her marriage license say she’s a man. The county clerk in San Antonio gave Hill and Bur a license to wed, putting the couple at the center of a decade-long fight over whether unions like theirs are legal in a state that has overwhelmingly opposed same-sex marriage in polls and at the ballot box.

In a complex and ironic twist of Texas politics, a 1999 conservative court ruling actually sanctions unions like Hill and Bur’s — though they are, by their own definition, a gay married couple. That's because the ruling, which sought to establish gender as unchangeable, established a person's birth certificate as the legal document that defines his or her gender, regardless of later sex-change operations. And so it had the odd side effect of allowing transgender homosexuals to legally marry. It’s a conundrum that dismays social conservatives, confounds some county clerks and has advocates for gay and transgender rights calling for clarification. In perhaps their sole point of consensus on social issues, some conservatives and gay and transgender advocates agree, for different reasons, that people like Hill shouldn’t be allowed to identify as one gender in daily life but another when getting married.  

“It’s all screwy, and the reason why it’s screwy is because people are worried about same-sex marriage,” says Houston lawyer Phyllis Randolph Frye, a transgender woman who represented the plaintiffs in the 1999 case. Read more.