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Posts Tagged ‘same sex marriage’

To me, the answer is quite clearly “Yes!” However, since some people apparently disagree, I’ll go ahead and explain how I reach that conclusion.

In thinking about laws legalizing same-sex marriage, it’s always been my understanding that the goal is to make the sex or gender of the partners irrelevant, in other words, to allow anyone to marry anyone else without regard to what sex or gender they are. The text of the New York Marriage Equality Act passed and signed into law yesterday reflects this principle.

The Act states that its purpose is to “formally recognize[] otherwise-valid marriages without regard to whether the parties are of the same or different sex.” In addition, the legislature’s intent in passing the act is to ensure “that all provisions of law which utilize gender-specific terms in reference to the parties to a marriage … be construed in a gender-neutral manner….” (Sec. 2.)  To carry out these purposes, the operative provisions of the Act (Sec. 3) state:

A marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex.

No government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage … shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being or having been of the same sex[,] rather than a different sex. When necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities of spouses under the law, all gender-specific language or terms shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner in all sources of law.

It’s true that the phrase “the same or different sex” could be interpreted as referring only to the two binary sexes, i.e., only to male and female. Any such interpretation, however, is contradicted by the statement that “all gender-specific language or terms shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner.” “Gender-neutral” means “without gender,” not just male or female, or masculine or feminine.  The reference to parties who are “of the same sex[,] rather than a different sex,” rather than the different, or opposite, sex, also contradicts any claim that the Act was only intended to allow people who are either male or female to marry and deny that right to intersex people who may be neither or both sexes.

Finally, as the Supreme Court declared in Loving v. Virginia, the right to marry is a fundamental right. Therefore, any statute barring intersex people from marrying would likely be unconstitutional. In keeping with the separation of powers between the three branches of government, courts always attempt to carry out the legislature’s will by avoiding any interpretation of a statute that would render it unconstitutional. Under this principle, even if the language of the New York Marriage Equality Act could be interpreted as excluding intersex people, any court addressing that issue will strive to avoid finding the Act to be unconstitutional by adopting the equally reasonable interpretation that the legislature intended that everyone should have the right to marry anyone, regardless of their sex or gender (or any combination or lack thereof).

Thus, given both the language of the Act, and the potential unconstitutionality of any other interpretation, intersex people can be confident that, like those who fall within the sex/gender binary, they can marry whoever they want in the State of New York without regard to sex or gender.

NOTES

  1. In most cases, when one section of a statute is found to be unconstitutional, the courts will “sever” that provision and allow the remainder of the statute to go into effect.  However, the religious exemptions added to the Act on Friday, which won over the three Republican votes needed to pass the Act in the Senate, also included a “poison pill” provision to discourage anyone from challenging those exemptions. Section 3 of those amendments states that, if any part of the Act is held to be unconstitutional, the entire statute is invalid. Given this additional incentive, courts are sure to do everything possible to ensure that the entire Act is interpreted to be constitutional, including interpreting it to give intersex people the same right to marry as everyone else.
  2. I find it interesting that whoever drafted the Act was evidently aware of questions regarding the validity of an otherwise valid opposite-sex marriage when one of the partners transitions from male to female, or female to male.  It appears that the statement that no marriage shall be treated differently “based on the parties to the marriage … having been of the same sex[,] rather than a different sex” is designed specifically to remove any lingering doubts about that question.
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Attorney and law professor Jillian Weiss has posted another interesting article over on Bilerico.  This one concerns the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which held that laws making sex between consenting adults of the same sex a crime (aka “sodomy” laws) are unconstitutional, and whether and how that decision can be used to, in her words, “loosen the chokehold that the law has on transgender people.”  One of the commenters there asked if she could write another article on the definition of “sex” in Title VII and EEO policies banning “sex” discrimination, as applied to trans people.  Rather than wait for Dr. Weiss’ response, I decided to weigh in on this topic.  Here is my response:

E.T., I’ll take a stab at responding to your second question regarding the definition of “sex.”

It’s important to distinguish 2 different situations in which the legal definition of the word “sex” impacts trans people: first, laws that ban discrimination on the basis of sex in employment, housing, public accommodations, etc.; and second, the right of trans people to access legal privileges, e.g., marriage (in most states), that are restricted on the basis of a person’s sex. The second group could also encompass the right of trans people to use services or facilities, e.g., public restrooms, access to which is restricted on the basis of a person’s sex. (I say “could encompass” since, in most places, contrary to public opinion, there are no laws that say a man can’t use a women’s restroom, or vice versa. In other words, sex segregation of restrooms is largely a matter of social convention, not law, although trespassing and disturbing the peace laws are sometimes used (unjustly, in my opinion) to enforce those conventions.)

Where access to a legal privilege, service or facility is restricted based on sex, determining a trans person’s right of access requires a determination of what “sex” the person is, since sex-based segregation is based on a strict binary division between male or female, where no ambiguity is allowed. Answering that question, in turn, raises myriad complicated questions regarding how a person’s sex is determined. For example, is it strictly biological or chromosomal, or does it include a person’s gender identity or expression? If biological, do we look only at the configuration of the person’s genitals or genes at birth, or do we, also or instead, give effect to the person’s genital configuration after surgery? Can a person’s sex be legally changed? And what do we do about intersex people whose chromosomes, genitalia, internal organs, etc. are not clearly male or female?

Most, but not all, of the cases addressing this question in the context of the right of a trans person to marry have ignored the effects of surgery and attempts to “legally” change the person’s sex by amending her/his birth certificate. In other words, they were decided based on the basic premise espoused by many of our opponents that “once a man, always a man,” and vice versa.

Fortunately, most, but not all, of the recent cases involving the definition of “sex” for purposes of determining a trans person’s right to protection under laws banning sex discrimination have avoided this difficulty. They do so by saying that it doesn’t matter what sex a person is, i.e., whether the person is male, female, both or neither. Instead, what matters is whether the person was treated differently because of some sex-related characteristic. This trend started with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins in 1988. In that case, the court said that discrimination based on sex under Title VII, the federal law banning sex, race and other types of discrimination in employment, includes being treated differently because the person doesn’t conform to sex-based stereotypes regarding dress, mannerisms, etc. Thus, the Supreme Court held that it was illegal for Price Waterhouse to refuse to make Ann Hopkins a partner basically because she was too “butch.” (The court, of course, didn’t use that term and there is no indication that I know of that Ms. Hopkins was lesbian.)

This trend, IMO, reached its logical endpoint with last fall’s federal trial court decision in Diane Schroer’s Title VII sex discrimination suit against the Library of Congress. Schroer v. Billington. In that case, the court found that the Library violated Title VII by discriminating against Schroer because she was changing her sex, not because she was male, female, both or neither.

Thus, in the context of discrimination laws or policies that you were talking about, it isn’t necessary to define a person’s sex as male or female, etc. It is only necessary to tackle that question when the trans person is seeking access to a legal privilege like marriage, or a service or facility, like a restroom, where access is restricted based on whether the person is male or female. The lack of a coherent and consistent definition of a person’s sex and/or methods for legally changing one’s sex that are actually recognized by the courts are the source of most, if not, all, of the ongoing confusion regarding the rights of trans people.

In the case of marriage, I think the best solution to that confusion is to remove all sex or gender based restrictions, in other words, to legalize same sex marriage. That’s why the battle for marriage equality is important to the trans community, contrary to the opinions of some. With respect to access to restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities, I think the best solution is to provide for personal privacy, e.g., the stalls in women’s restrooms, and allow access based on the person’s gender expression. In other words, if you’re presenting as a woman, you use a women’s restroom, and vice versa, regardless of your physical sex. Any other solution quickly becomes too complex and confusing to administer and enforce. Implementing that solution will, however, require the American public to just “get over” their hang-ups about the sex or gender of the person in the stall next to them.

UPDATE

Some of you may also be interested in this post from last year on how laws that ban sex discrimination in access to public accommodations relate to the right of trans people to public restrooms.

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eQualityGiving is proposing a bill to correct the unequal treatment of LGBT people in all areas of federal law – employment, housing and public accommodations discrimination, the American with Disabilities Act, DOMA, DADT, etc. Read about (and download) it here. Whether or not a comprehensive bill like this is ever introduced or enacted, I think it serves a useful purpose in uniting the debate on the many ways in which we are treated unequally and helping to ensure that the changes we seek are consistent.

What do you think?

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FYI, here is eQualityGiving’s email announcing its proposal:

INTRODUCING THE EQUALITY & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT

Dear Abigail,

What if we asked for legal equality all at once in one comprehensive omnibus bill?

THE BLUEPRINT FOR LGBT EQUALITY

What would a bill for total legal equality look like? We asked attorney Karen Doering, a very experienced and savvy civil rights attorney, to prepare such a bill. It was presented and discussed on our listserv, which includes many of the major donors to the movement and the executive directors of all the major LGBTQ organizations.

We believe now is the time to introduce an omnibus bill.

We have prepared a section of our website with all the information about the proposed bill:
www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

There you can read the actual text of the bill and read the answers to the frequently asked questions. There is also a section reviewing the status of the incremental bills currently proposed. You can also post your comments directly on the site.

WHAT THE OMNIBUS BILL COVERS

1. Employment
2. Housing
3. Public accommodation
4. Public facilities
5. Credit
6. Federally funded programs and activities
7. Education
8. Disability
9. Civil marriage
10. Hate crimes
11. Armed forces
12. Immigration

INCREMENTALISM vs. OMNIBUS BILL

Some people think that an omnibus bill is too unrealistic to pursue because Congress functions in a very complex way. But the country voted for a new leader who promised major changes to the way our government functions.

We have tried incrementalism at the federal level for LGBT equality for 35 years without any results. Now is the best time to capitalize on the energy of new leadership and propose what we think change looks like.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“A right delayed is a right denied.”

Asking for an omnibus equality bill does not mean that we need to pursue it at the expense of incremental bills. Both approaches can be used simultaneously, and we encourage this strategy.

An Omnibus bill has two major benefits:

> It points out in clear legal terms all the areas in which we are not treated equally under the law. If we ask for less, we will certainly get less.

> An Omnibus bill provides a standard to which incremental victories can be compared. We may discover, for example, that even the trans-inclusive ENDA introduced in March 2007 still did not provide the same level of protections in employment that other groups receive.

SAY WHAT YOU THINK

If you believe that, in addition to incremental bills, we should also push for an Omnibus Equality Bill, tell your member of Congress, talk to your friends, and write about it on the site. All the info about the bill is here:

www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

For many months we have been preparing this Omnibus Equality Bill. Join us to push for it, so that we can achieve LGBT legal equality faster.

Best regards,

Juan Ahonen-Jover, Ph.D.
Ken Ahonen-Jover, M.D.
Founders, eQualityGiving

P.S. Please forward this alert to others who could be interested.

********************************

UPDATE – 3/24/09

Recently, there has been some discussion in the blogosphere about the impact of what some believe to be a narrower definition of “gender identity” in the federal Hate Crimes Bill (HR1592) from 2007, when compared to the definition of that term in the gender-inclusive ENDA (HR2015) from that same year.  (The Hate Crimes Bill defined “gender identity” as “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics,” while the inclusive version of ENDA defines it to mean “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.  To learn about this discussion, read Kathy Padilla’s recent posts on The Bilerico Project here and here.)  In a comment I left on eQualityGiving’s website, I pointed out this difference and the risk of unnecessary litigation over whether the definitions are intended to have different meanings.  In response, eQualityGiving has amended their Omnibus Bill to include the same definition in all its provisions, including hate crimes.  The revised version of the bill, dated March 21, 2009, is available for download on eQualityGiving’s website.

In my original post, I failed to note one huge advantage eQualityGiving’s Omnibus Bill has over even the inclusive version of ENDA.  Rather than enacting a separate statute with a broader exemption for religious organizations and other provisions that differ from existing civil rights law, eQualityGiving’s bill would simply amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the federal law banning sex, race and other discrimination in employment) by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its terms.  As Karen Doering, the drafter of the Omnibus Bill, explains on the FAQ page for the bill, this approach has substantial advantages over ENDA.  Having worked as an investigator of discrimination claims under Title VII and being familiar with its terms and, especially, how it has been interpreted by the courts, I see this as a major improvement over current proposals.

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The discussion on various Yahoo groups that I belong to regarding the impact of the same-sex marriage bans just enacted in Arizona, California and Florida on marriages involving one or more transgender partner continues. I’ve previously posted about those issues here and here.  This is my most recent addition to that discussion:

I agree with the basics of your description [of the law concerning marriages in which one partner is trans], but want to clarify that what happens in most of these cases is that the couple is able to get a marriage license and marry simply because they appear to be a typical male/female couple. Thus, although they are allowed to marry, they are “legally” married only in the sense that no one has challenged it yet. Many couples involving a trans partner may marry, live out their lives and die without anyone ever challenging the validity of their marriage, and thus escape the uncertainty I’ve been talking about. But there’s no way to predict which couples will be that fortunate and which ones will face the horror of being told years later that they were never legally married.

As for the “trans lesbian” who married her partner that you mentioned, I assume that you are referring to cases where a MTF transsexual marries a cisgender female, before the trans partner has changed her name or sex marker on any of her identification documents. I know of several such cases. Again, as long as the couple appears to be a male/female couple to whatever clerk issues the marriage license and to whatever judge or other authority marries them, their marriage is treated as a legal, opposite-sex marriage, but may, or may not, in fact be legal if it is ever challenged.

The basic rule is that a marriage that was legal when and where it was entered into continues to be valid until dissolved by divorce. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), however, makes an exception to that rule for same-sex marriages by allowing states where such marriages are banned to refuse to recognize a legal same-sex marriage entered into in another state or country. DOMA should not apply, however, to a marriage between a trans woman who was legally male at the time and a cisgender female since, at the time it is entered into, it is a legal opposite-sex marriage. The same applies to a trans man who is legally female at the time he marries a cisgender male. Such marriages should, therefore, be safe from challenge even after the trans partner legally changes her/his name and sex. A marriage between a man and woman, one of whom realizes that she/he is trans after the marriage and then transitions, should also be legal, since the only difference between that situation and the ones I just discussed is simply a matter of timing.

BUT, and this is a big “but,” I know of no cases anywhere addressing whether a marriage in which one partner transitions after marriage continues to be valid. Everything I know says it should be, but stranger things have happened, especially when it comes to trans people.

Finally, just to clarify, the majority of courts that have faced the issue have said that a marriage between a trans woman (i.e., an MTF transsexual) who is “legally” female at the time of marriage and a cisgender man (or vice versa) is INVALID as an illegal, same-sex marriage, despite any change in identification documents, birth certificates, or whatever.

The bottom line is to get married before the trans partner has legally changed her/his sex if you can. If not, once married, see an attorney to draft wills, medical directives, child adoptions, etc. to legally create as many of the benefits of marriage as possible, in case the marriage is declared invalid at some future date. (In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do those things even when the couple marries while they are still legally of different sexes, just in case.) In other words, do the exact same things that other “same-sex” couples have to do to create the semblance of a legally recognized marriage. That’s why marriage equality is just as much an issue for trans people as it is for gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

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UPDATED 1/18/09: I’m feeling inspired by the beginning celebrations of Barack Obama’s inauguration in two days, and decided to move this to the front page for awhile for all to enjoy. I don’t know about you, but this video brings tears of hope to my eyes every time I watch it.

This video demonstrates the promise of change, and the hope that it brings, that inspired millions of us to elect Barack Obama as our next President.  Today, I choose to believe in this message of hope and I commit myself to doing all that I can to change the hate and bigotry that led to the passage of same-sex marriage bans here in Arizona, and in California and Florida, and a ban on adoption by gay, lesbian and other unmarried couples in Arkansas.  Hate can never win!

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Last night as I went to bed and this morning when I awoke, my primary emotion in the wake of yesterday’s election is one of overwhelming sadness. The sadness I feel is complex but comes largely from two sources, one political, one personal.

On the political side, I was elated by the election of Barack Obama and the promise of fundamental change it brings. I shared that elation with a restaurant and bar full of fellow Democrats. It was an intoxicating moment. I spent more than a dozen hours over the last four days in the local Democratic headquarters and the headquarters of our local candidate’s campaign for Congress, making phone calls to encourage Democratic and Independent voters to get to the polls and support Obama and the local Democrats. The election of a Democrat to the House of Representatives from historically conservative Northern Arizona is a wonderful victory, and part of the hope that Democratic gains in the House and Senate portend for passage of an all-inclusive ENDA and the Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill, and the repeal of DOMA and DADT.

But I realized last night that my hopes and dreams for change from this election really rested on the fate of Florida’s Amendment 2, Arizona’s Proposition 102 and California’s Proposition 8, all of which proposed to amend their respective state constitutions to prohibit equal rights to marriage for same sex and same gender couples. I also realized that I hadn’t acknowledged to myself how important the defeat of those measures had become to me, presumably in a misguided attempt to protect myself from the disappointment that I feel this morning. I had told myself that, although the passage of the Florida and Arizona measures was probable, there was a chance that California’s Prop. 8 would be defeated, thus preserving the California Supreme Court’s historic decision that prohibiting same-sex marriage violated the California constitution; and that, as long as Prop. 8 was defeated, we had a chance to maintain the momentum of change in the treatment of LGBT people that seemed to be building with the California court decision, the elimination of the ballot initiative to overturn Montgomery County, Maryland’s ban on gender identity discrimination, and what had seemed to be a sea change in the attitudes of Americans toward LGBT people and our community’s willingness to fight to continue those changes.

This morning, however, there is no doubt that both the Florida and Arizona measures have passed. Although there are still a substantial number of provisional and late absentee ballots yet to be counted in California, which theoretically could shift the outcome there, the passage of Prop. 8 also seems certain. The inability of our community and our allies to defeat even one of these attacks on our rights by those who hate us and believe that we are undeserving of all that this nation offers to everyone else is so incredibly sad and depressing. I find it impossible to express the hopelessness that I feel. All I can say is that that hopelessness, that feeling that nothing can or will ever change for the better, that it will never be OK to be who I am, that there will never be a chance that I am loved and respected for who I am, has been the source of the depression I have experienced since I was a young boy wanting to be a girl. Although I have learned many ways to remind myself that all those beliefs are lies that my ego tells me to keep me trapped and separated from the knowledge of the Love that I am, this morning all I feel is the darkness.

The personal side of what I’m feeling comes from this: I know what love feels like. I know what it’s like to have someone with whom I can share my deepest self, someone with whom I feel safe enough to share all of my thoughts, all of my feelings, and who feels safe enough to do the same with me, both of us secure in the knowledge that all that we share will be accepted and honored without judgment, without the need to question or change or suggest, someone who recognizes and is able to live the knowledge that we are not our thoughts and our feelings, and that our love for each other lies so far beyond those things as to be unassailable. That safety, that absolute acceptance, that connection at the level of heart, the heart that knows no fear, only love, is what I seek. Today, I long for that, sad in the recognition that is not part of my life today.

The knowledge that this is what I seek has been building slowly over the last few weeks. It came full blown into my consciousness last Thursday when I saw Byron, my friend and therapist who, over the 13 years that we have known each other, has come to know me more intimately than anyone else in my life. Byron helped me to recognize that this is what I seek, what I long for at the core of my being, and he helped me to honor and cherish that desire as an important and valued part of who I am, and who I wish to be.

That desire to connect expresses itself in many ways and isn’t limited only to the desire to have a partner to share my life with. I felt it over the last several days as I joined with other volunteers making phone calls to get out the vote here in Arizona and as I became part of the hope and enthusiasm that became palpable in this country as McCain continued to shoot himself in the foot and Obama demonstrated his integrity and commitment to change and the promise of finding a better way for all of us to live and connect. Sitting in those crowded rooms, all of us talking, dialing and sharing the moments of triumphs and connection with voters who supported Obama and the desire for change, and the disappointment from encounters with those who, seemingly beyond reason, opposed Obama and the need for change in this country, I felt connected, a sense of belonging, of doing something concrete and positive to change this country, to restore hope, to me and to other LGBT Americans who, like me, feel so marginalized and disconnected.

When I went to the local Democratic election party after the polls closed, I hoped that sense of belonging and connection would continue and that, hope against hope, I might even make a new friend, someone who might want to meet again and see if we could connect on a deeper level. It didn’t happen. I didn’t spend my time there alone in a crowd of people, as I have many times in the past. Instead, I talked with other volunteers that I had met through the weekend, and with other friends that I had met elsewhere. After the short moment of elation at the news that Obama had won the presidency, however, my sense of isolation, my disappointment at the reality that no heart connection was to be found there, and my fears about the outcome of Prop. 8 and the other same-sex marriage bans, combined to send me home to my laptop, the internet and the news. The reality of the passage of those measures quickly became apparent and my sadness became palpable, as I realized that Obama’s election hadn’t really changed anything for me, personally or politically, and that, yet again, the hope for the things that I want in my life – love, connection, community, acceptance and respect – lies in the distant future, if at all. Unable to connect at the level I needed from friends on the internet, I signed off Yahoo Messenger and Facebook, turned off my cell phone and cried. I cried at the seemingly insurmountable barriers that separate me from those things and from even my closest friends.

I sit here this morning trying to understand and express what I feel, and the tears still come. Where is hope? Where is love? Why do I feel so apart, so “other” from the rest of the world? Soon after I embarked on this road of seeking knowledge of who I am at the deepest levels and finding a way to move beyond the loneliness and isolation that I have always felt at the core of my being, I knew that I had chosen a difficult path, one that not many are willing to venture down. But I also knew without doubt that no other path offered any hope of finding my heart’s desire. Today I get yet another opportunity to experience those challenges and to remind myself why I continue to seek for love and connection. Right now, however, all I feel is pain, disappointment and near exhaustion at all that this path requires of me.

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For those of you who didn’t see it there, this is my response to a comment over on TranscendGender to my post, also posted here, on the effect of the proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution banning same-sex marriage on transsexual marriages:

Liz, the best chart I know of on LGBT rights in the U.S. is EqualityGiving’s State of Equality Scorecard, which includes same sex marriage. It does not, however, deal with the question of the validity of marriages by transsexuals, whether they transition before or after marriage. Lambda Legal, NCLR and NCTE may have charts or other information specific to transsexuals.

Of the states you listed, only Texas and, I believe, Ohio, have addressed the validity of marriages involving transsexuals. In both cases, however, the dispute involved trans women who had fully transitioned, had SRS and obtained new or amended birth certificates showing them as female before they married (in the Texas case) or attempted to marry (in the Ohio case). Both cases, as well as the similar decision in Kansas, essentially said, “once a man, always a man,” regardless of what you might have done since birth. Under those decisions, an opposite-sex marriage in which one partner transitions after marriage theoretically would continue to be valid. As I said, however, as far as I know, there has never been a decision in the U.S. specifically holding that such marriages are still valid. It would seem logical that, if you’re considered to be male (or female) despite surgery, transitioning and changing your birth certificate, then it should be legal to marry a cissexual female (or male). There are some, however, who essentially argue that transsexuals are both sexes and, therefore, can’t legally marry anyone. Some foreign countries, like the U.K., have addressed the risk that permitting transsexuals to legally change their sex will result in illegal same-sex marriage by prohibiting married people from changing their sex for legal purposes, unless they first get divorced. I have one post-op trans woman friend in England who remains legally male because she and her wife want to stay married.

I don’t know of any decision in Kentucky regarding the validity of marriages involving transsexuals, whether they transition before or after marriage.

In New Jersey, a court held in 1976 that the marriage between a cissexual male and a trans woman who had legally changed her sex before marriage was valid. There is no case there, however, saying that a marriage in which one of the partners transitions after marriage is still valid. That question is unlikely to arise, since New Jersey allows civil unions that are supposed to have all of the same rights and responsibilities as marriages. (New Jersey is currently studying whether the two are truly equal, as the legislature intended. If not, they are likely to change their laws to permit same-sex marriage, as is now the law in Massachusetts and California. Once same-sex marriage is legal, this issue, of course, goes away.)

Like New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont allow same-sex civil unions. I know of no decisions in either state regarding the validity of marriages involving transsexuals, whether they transition before or after marriage. Thus, the quotation in the NY Times article [on existing marriages where one partner transitions that Liz linked to] stating that Christine Littleton could legally “marry” a man in Connecticut or Vermont is inaccurate. While she could enter into a civil union with a man in those states, there is no reason to believe she could actually marry a man there.

The whole picture gets even more complicated if you consider the fact that three states (Ohio, Tennessee and Idaho, where I was born) do not permit the change of a person’s sex on their birth certificate, whether they have had SRS or not. The State of Arizona, however, has already recognized me as female on my driver’s license. Would that designation control if I wanted to get married here? Nobody knows. Of course, I could probably walk into a courthouse, except the one here in Prescott where they all know me, show my driver’s license and obtain a license to marry a cissexual man. That’s no guarantee, however, that the marriage is actually valid. A cissexual man and a trans woman, who still had an “M” on her driver’s license, or another man (the news reports are unclear regarding whether the second partner was gay or trans) recently managed to do just that and barely escaped prosecution for providing false information on their marriage license application.

Then, consider the fact that, even though I can’t change my birth certificate after SRS, I can change my sex to female on both my passport and my Social Security records with proof of surgery. If I attempt to marry a man here, or anywhere else where same sex marriage is illegal, will the courts look to those documents, rather than my birth certificate, to determine if my marriage is valid? Again, nobody knows.

The bottom line is that the marriage rights of transsexuals are a mess, contrary to the beliefs of some gays and lesbians, who occasionally express resentment at the (mistaken) notion that we can marry persons of the same birth sex with impunity. The only fair, as well as the simplest, solution to these problems for both trans and non-trans people is to allow same-sex marriages, not civil unions, without restriction based on sex or gender. Until that happens, or there’s a hell of a lot of successful litigation in many, many states, trans people will continue to have good reason to worry about the validity of their marriages, whether they transition before or after exchanging vows with the partner of their choice.

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