The widow of a Texas firefighter now wants to remarry, but the Harris County clerk refuses to give her a marriage license. Nicki Araguz ran into the same problem when she tried to collect her late husband’s death benefits two years ago.
The authorities in Texas say that Araguz is not entitled to the same rights and privileges as other women because of one simple fact. Araguz used to be a man.
She was born in California 38 years ago as a boy named Justin Purdue.
Araguz, the widow of late firefighter Thomas Araguz who died in the line of duty in 2010, obtained a new birth certificate from California listing her as a woman. But Texas does not recognize sex-change procedures. The state considers transgendered people to be their original gender.
That means under Texas law, the listing of Araguz (at left in picture) as a woman on her birth certificate is just a mistake. In the state’s eyes, she will always be a man.
Texas has a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and woman. Same sex marriages are banned. Because Texas law considers Araguz to be a man, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart denied her application for a marriage license last Thursday because men can’t marry other men in Texas.
"The law on whom can marry whom in the state of Texas it’s very clear under our constitution,” said South Texas College of Law Professor Gerald Treece. “You have to have one man and one woman."
But is it that clear? Presumably, if Araguz or any transgendered woman wanted to marry another woman in Texas, that would be allowed because transgendered women are in fact men in the eyes of state law and the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would not apply. But that possibility has not been tested.
In 2011, Araguz fought with her late husband’s family over his death benefits. She is still appealing the case, but a judge’s ruling found that her marriage to the fireman was illegal because under the law, it was a same-sex union and that counted her out for receiving the benefits that would normally go to a widow.
See Araguz attempt to obtain a marriage license in the video below.