Marriages of Transgender People Ruled Valid by Courts in Arizona and California
Transgender Law Center celebrated two rulings this week that affirm the legal recognition of gender identity as well as transgender people’s right to marry and have children. An Arizona Appeals Court ruled today that the marriage of Thomas Beatie and Nancy J. Beatie was indeed valid, and could thus be dissolved via divorce. A previous court had ruled that Beatie was legally female because he had not been sterilized and because he had given birth to the couple’s children, and therefore held their marriage was invalid because of Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The Arizona Court of Appeals echoed the arguments made in Transgender Law Center’s amicus brief that because “the right to have children is a liberty interest afforded special constitutional protection”—“one of the basic civil rights of man”—it would not interpret the Arizona or Hawaii gender-change statute as “prohibit[ing] giving birth as a prerequisite to gender redesignation.” The court also held that to deny Thomas Beatie legal recognition as male “would run afoul of the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.”
“Divorce is hard enough as it is. Nobody expects the government to contest it. After two and a half long years, I’ve finally been legally vindicated and validated not only as a husband, father, and a man, but as a human being,” said Beatie. “Hopefully now, other transgender people in Arizona and throughout the country don’t have to live in fear of their marriages, families, and identities being challenged and disrespected just because of who they are.”
The Beatie ruling comes on the heels of a similar decision by the Superior Court of California, issued last week, holding that the marriage of Jake Miller, who uses the stage name Buck Angel, was also valid. He and his wife Elayne Angel were married in Louisiana after Buck had obtained a California court order recognizing his male gender and had been living as a man for years. His California birth certificate was amended several years after the marriage. In an effort to avoid paying spousal support, Elayne attempted to argue that their marriage was invalid on the grounds that Buck’s birth certificate had not yet been amended to reflect his male gender at the time the Louisiana marriage took place. The court ruled that Buck was legally male, and that Louisiana law would recognize this as a marriage between a man and a woman.
Buck Angel said, “I was shocked that my manhood was brought into question after I had been living my authentic life as a man for over 20 years and having done my best to get all my documents changed. Today I feel incredibly validated, both for myself and the entire transgender community. This is so important for couples and families like mine. I am very grateful to my attorney Alana Chazan, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and all of the supporters I’ve had throughout this process.”
“These decisions reflect the simple reality that transgender men are men and transgender women are women, and the law should recognize them as such,” added Ilona Turner, Legal Director of Transgender Law Center. “The Arizona Court of Appeals recognized, appropriately, that the U.S. Constitution forbids denying transgender people recognition for their lived gender simply because they exercise their fundamental right to have children.”
Transgender Law Center submitted amicus briefs in both cases. Thomas Beatie is represented by the Cantor Law Group, and TLC’s amicus brief was submitted with the pro bono assistance of Claudia Work of the Campbell Law Group. Buck Angel is represented by Alana Chazan of Baumer & Chazan Law Group, LLP, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights co-wrote the amicus brief in that case.
Both amicus briefs and both rulings are below.