When considering a sex change, the legal status of your marriage is probably the last thing on your mind. But the relationship with your wife, as defined by the everyday loving interactions you two share, is something that goes through your mind throughout the day. As is the relationships you have with family, friends and co-workers. Between the myriad of doctors and psychologists and huge life upheavals, you may have missed the legal consequences for becoming a member of the fairer sex.
As a recent New York Times article shares – there aren’t any. That’s right, the transgendered have found a way to get around the bigotry which surrounds same sex marriage – albeit through a less traditional means.
28 years ago Donald Brunner married Frances Gottschalk, but after a sex change operation in 2005 Donald became Denise. His loving wife Fran stuck by her, and they had their marriage certificate amended.
While they have the piece of paper, the Brunner’s are still filled with angst over the legal status of their marriage. What does the IRS think? What would happened in the event of an accident? So far they haven’t had any trouble from government employees, but largely because the patchwork of government laws doesn’t adequately address this case. The article cites a bizarre conundrum:
Urging the United States Supreme Court to tackle the issue in 2000, lawyers for Christie Lee Littleton, a Texas male-to-female transsexual suing her husband’s doctors for wrongful death, noted the confused landscape: “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Texas, is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Texas, and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”
The Supreme Court declined to take the case.
Another quote from Robyn, who married before having a sex change and still with her wife:
“We always worry about the day someone does question our situation,” Robyn, 55, said. “All it takes is some right-wing people, and there’s no way to know where the court is going to rule.”
As Hilzoy writes – imagine losing your kids because a court decided your marriage no longer counted. Even after 25 years. Imagine living in fear every day, because you’re different. Yet people like Mathew Staver of the Liberty Counsel rail against human liberties when he says ‘What you’re born with is what you are’. Intending to disparage transsexuals, yet ironically many would say they are born as a woman trapped inside a man’s body. So perhaps he’s right…
Already the blogosphere has lit up, with many using this as a rallying cry to ‘just up and let us marry whomever we please‘.
One thing I do know – while our legal system may make it difficult to stay together, it cannot stop two people from loving each other.
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