Update: March 29, 2013
Transgender Law Center is dismayed that Arizona Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach has ruled that Thomas Beatie’s marriage to his wife was invalid because of Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage. Beatie has lived as a man for the past 15 years. Before he and his wife married in 2003, Beatie underwent significant medical treatment to transition from female to male, including surgery and hormone treatment, and properly changed the gender marker on his birth certificate to male. The judge, however, ruled that Beatie was legally female because he had not been sterilized and had given birth to the couple’s children. This unnecessarily narrow reading of the Arizona gender-change law would actually make the statute unconstitutional, by restricting the right to have one’s gender legally recognized to those transgender people who give up their fundamental constitutional right to have children. The decision is out of step with contemporary medical knowledge and practice, as well as the strong trend in state and federal policies that permit transgender people to change their sex legally without undergoing sterilization.
Transgender Law Center recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief in an Arizona family law case that could be significant for transgender people in that state and around the country.
Thomas Beatie is a transgender man. More than 10 years ago, he began living in accordance with his male gender identity and took significant steps—including hormone therapy and surgery—to change his body to reflect that identity. After he got his legal documents changed to match his gender, he and his wife, Nancy, were legally married. The couple wanted to start a family together, and because Nancy was unable to bear children, they decided that Thomas would give birth to the couple’s three children.
In 2012 Thomas and Nancy filed for divorce in an Arizona state court. Both spouses agreed that their marriage was a valid different-sex marriage under the laws of Arizona and that they wanted to get divorced. But the judge considering their divorce petition suggested that the marriage might be “same-sex” and barred from recognition under Arizona law because of the fact that Thomas had given birth.
Transgender Law Center filed an amicus brief to clarify for the court that Thomas meets all the legal requirements to be recognized as male and that the couple’s marriage is a valid different-sex marriage. The brief also argues that a state cannot impose a requirement that a transgender person be sterilized or otherwise refrain from having biological children before they can be legally recognized in accordance with their gender identity. That kind of requirement would violate the well-established constitutional right to have children and would unfairly punish the couple’s children by denying legal recognition to their parents’ relationship.
Our brief was filed with the pro bono assistance of Phoenix attorney Claudia Work of the Campbell Law Group, Chartered. Thomas Beatie is represented by the Cantor Law Group.
We expect the court to rule on the validity of the marriage within the next few months.