When it comes to same-sex marriage, there’s a reason gay couples aren’t flocking to Texas. Take Nikki Araguz’s story: Two years after marrying her husband, a firefighter, he was killed in the line of duty in 2010. But when she turned to the state to collect his death benefits, Texas discovered just one little issue: Araguz had been born a man.
Formerly known as Justin Graham Purdue, Araguz changed her name more than a decade ago and underwent sexual reassignment surgery shortly after marrying her husband, according to ABC News.
In an interview with 20/20 at the time, she said they kept her husband’s family in the dark about her past because they weren’t sure they would understand.
Turns out they didn’t. The death sparked a legal tug-of-war between Araguz and her husband’s surviving heirs, who are battling over death benefits worth as much as $1 million.
And just last year, a Texas judge annulled their marriage following the controversy.
“All of the courts keep saying they don’t allow gay marriage,” her attorney told ABC. “Our position is that this is not a gay marriage issue. It’s a man being married to a woman.”
There’s been a major shift in the way gender is being seen and protected under federal law, notes family law attorney David Pisarra. The problem is most efforts have involved workplace regulations.
His stance: “The fact is that for all legal purposes she should be considered a woman, and that would extend to her marriage and her widow’s benefits.”
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