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Texas court reverses decision that voided transgender widow’s marriage

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Updated: 7:00 p.m. CST

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Texas appeals court on Thursday overturned a judge’s ruling that had voided the marriage of a transgender widow whose firefighter husband died battling a blaze.

Nikki Araguz

Nikki Araguz

The 13th Texas Court of Appeals sent the case of Nikki Araguz back to the lower court, saying “there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding (Araguz’s) sex and whether the marriage was a same sex marriage.”

In 2011, state District Judge Randy Clapp in Wharton County ruled that the marriage between Nikki Araguz and her husband Thomas Araguz was “void as a matter of law.”

Thomas Araguz’s mother and his first wife had challenged the marriage’s validity, arguing the fallen firefighter’s estate should go to his two sons because Nikki Araguz was born a man and Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Nikki Araguz, 38, had argued in court she had done everything medically and legally possible to show she is female and was legally married under Texas law and t hat she’s entitled to widow’s benefits.

Kent Rutter, Nikki Araguz’s attorney, said his client was very pleased by Thursday’s ruling. “This decision recognizes that transgender Texans have the right to marry the person that they love,” he said.

Attorneys for Simona Longoria, Thomas Araguz’s mother, and Heather Delgado, his ex-wife, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Longoria and her family have said Thomas Araguz learned of his wife’s gender history just before his death and had planned to end the marriage.

But Nikki Araguz, who remarried in 2013, has insisted Thomas Araguz fully supported her through the surgical process to become a woman. She underwent surgery two months after they were married in 2008. Thomas Araguz died July 2010 while fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton, located 60 miles southwest of Houston. He was 30.

In its 26-page ruling, the three-judge panel of the Corpus Christi-based appeals court wrote that Clapp erred by essentially saying in his ruling that Nikki Araguz was a man at the time of her husband’s death.

Attorneys for Longoria and Delgado had argued Nikki Araguz was born with male sex organs and had such organs at the time of her marriage, making it invalid.

The appeals court said more expert testimony on this issue is needed as the only such testimony presented was an affidavit by one of Nikki Araguz’s doctors, who wrote that she was medically and psychologically female as a result of her compliance with the standards of care adopted by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health.

The three-judge panel also wrote that changes made in 2009 to the Texas Family Code that allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license legislatively overruled a previous court decision that had been used as legal precedent in such cases.

In that 1999 case, a San Antonio woman’s wrongful-death claim brought on behalf of her husband was thrown out, with a court ruling that although the woman had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man, based on her original birth certificate.

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114 more reader comments:

  1. Delighted to hear about this outcome! :)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:43pm
  2. Outstanding!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:44pm
  3. (Y)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:45pm
  4. This is a wonderful step forward and also a surprise coming from the State of Texas.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:45pm
  5. Why do transgender people get to married,but us gays can’t! Aren’t they still the same sex at one point in their life. Sorry, not changing my sex organs just to get married. THIS IS A WRONG. SHAME ON TEXAS!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:45pm
  6. You should probably read some books about transgender people because right now you sound like a bigot.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:47pm
  7. We SHOULD all be able to marry, but your statements about transsexualism are offensive.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:49pm
  8. Not a bigot, an ignorant knuckledragging buffoon.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:49pm
  9. Kim, you speak for yourself, you have no authority to speak for the rest of us.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:52pm
  10. You don't seem to grasp the idea of equality taking one step at a time, Kim. In Texas, this case came before a judge, and that judge ruled for equality and justice. Had the case been two women or two men, I'm certain the judge would have ruled the same way. This is simply a precedent that can be used as a stepping tone towards equality for all.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:05pm
  11. Oh boo hoo, life isn't fair. GTFOI.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:09pm
  12. Grow up and get over it....

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:11pm
  13. Excuse me for being idealistic, but wasn't the goal the achieve equality for all LGBTQ across the board? So, this is one important step, and it should be celebrated. No need for jealousy or envy or whatever made you write that comment.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:27pm
  14. Kim even as gay people we haven't a clue what trans-gender people go through. We are not the same. I am happy for the ruling and our time will come but just be happy that progress is happening.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:35pm
  15. Kim, let me say, Same sex marriage will come become approve in Texas ONE DAY or maybe soon!!! Be patient and fight. Now, do favor us, have several seat --> _/ _/ _/

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:49pm
  16. Kim do you seriously think a person would go through transition just so they could get married?! If you believe that then you really need to educate yourself your making yourself sound like a fool.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:34pm
  17. Kim, shut the FUCK up!!!!! People like you are the EXACT reason i am ashamed to be considered LGBT and are the EXACT reason i am deeply ashamed of the so-called LGBT community!

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:12pm
  18. fuck you kim you make no sense trans people WISH they were born in the right body PLUS its very offencive to assume all trans people are straight gender identity has nothing to do with sexuality hun.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:37pm
  19. It's a step closer to Equal Rights, and in Texas- that's pretty far fetched to begin with

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:38pm
  20. Kim, you're a moron. Get educated.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:13pm
  21. Very ignorant... I dont wanna to change my sex organs or physical appearance just to get married..... I am hoping and praying that here in VA same-sex couples can get married... so I can offically marry the person I am in love with... but I am changing my physical appearance because it is not the person I feel I am on the inside...

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:34pm
  22. I don't think you should get married at all lol... so dumb

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:44am
  23. Stupid slut.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:28am
  24. Progress is progress. Give it time, Kim.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:00am
  25. Oh Kim, you poor ignorant soul. Bless your heart.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:56am
  26. HEY HEY. HO HO !!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:47pm
  27. Go away, Kim.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:47pm
  28. This is good news as it sets a precedent for courts to follow in future rulings…like the one filed recently in Texas concerning the constitutionality of their ban on same sex marriage!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:47pm
  29. What kind of family in law would try to nullify their own sons marriage licenses after he died? Fucking disgusting…

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:48pm
  30. Have you seen that movie bridegroom. Parents will do some selfish, sick things. But it is disgusting that these parents are trying to intervene in their child's marriage. And dictate what will happen to his money.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 1:17am
  31. I've read some stories where ex-wives would fight against transgendered spouses who their ex-partners remarried and successfully take the benefits away from them. Women are evil.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:19pm
  32. Seriously Kim?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:48pm
  33. Kim people aren’t changing, their sex to get married. They are changing their sex because they have gender dysphoria.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:48pm
  34. Kim, can’t you just be happy for them? Trans* people have been shit on way more than us. This is the right thing to do.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:48pm
  35. The bricks are falling… So wonderful.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:48pm
  36. Kim, if you legally change your gender to male, then you can marry a woman! Duh…

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:49pm
  37. What happened to Nikki was a travesty. Heartbreaking injustice.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:50pm
  38. Change is acomin ‘, kim…you should be happy for every step forward that every state takes…this is one big one for TEXAS…our day will come…WOOHOO. TEXAS!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:51pm
  39. Does that mean this judge also undid the annulment? How DARE a previous judge annul her marriage after her firefighter husband died while protecting people. This is a good step, but that won’t undo the shameful treatment she’s received.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:51pm
  40. Kim I also feel sorry for you. Its sad that someone in this community thinks that they are more entitled to a civil right than someone else is. This woman did not go through a life time of hardship to become the person that she is to simply do something as small as getting married. She had to fight to be able to be the woman she knows she is. This takes years and is not something done on a whim. Please educate yourself on trans issues and please change your bigoted cissexist ways.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:58pm
  41. you brought me to tears Thank you so much for saying that!

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:35pm
  42. Wonderful

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:03pm
  43. Kim, are you a troll or just a bigoted and hateful individual? T is part of the LGBTQ community and this victory is a victory for all of us! Us gay and lesbian people will have our day. My wife and I went to Maryland to get married. News like this encourages me that one day Florida will recognize our marriage. Praying for your enlightenment ♥

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:03pm
  44. Kim get over yourself. Forward progress is forward progress. And it is the little victories, that we need to celebrate because they are all a part of the big LGBT picture. This is a huge success, transpeople are treated far worse than gays, im engaged to a fantastic transwoman and i see the struggle. Good job Texas!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:03pm
  45. wrong ruling

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:04pm
  46. I can hear teabagger heads exploding in Montgomery County.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:08pm
  47. Well!!! Fiddle dee dee!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:08pm
  48. This is amazing and as it should be. Kudos to Texas! This is the 2nd amazing and accepting piece I’ve seen today on Texans, here’s yet another short piece of someone who “gets it” http://twentytwowords.com/dallas-sportscasters-shocking-response-to-michael-sam-coming-out-as-gay/. It truly is about accepting our differences and treating one another with compassion, respect, kindness and dignity.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:19pm
  49. Nc please

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:23pm
  50. Because heaven fucking forbid someone who is different than you, have the same rights as you. I can’t believe we’re still having this damn conversation. Bigoted, hateful, arrogant idiots who want nothing more than to use their own opinions to oppress others.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:29pm
  51. Kim, you are what’s wrong with people today. only thinking about yourself, what you want, your beliefs. put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you go being all judgey. a step in any direction but backwards is a step in the right direction. stop being so self centered and celebrate this victory like it should be celebrated.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:29pm
  52. Good for her, people need to get over themselves.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:30pm
  53. Wonderful. Much like dominos, things are coming together. Congratulations, Nikki.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:32pm
  54. GOOD NEWS FOR HER. AMEN!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:33pm
  55. YAY!!!! we finally get some god damn attention!!! :)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:33pm
  56. IN TEXAS??? The same Texas that’s in America? next to Louisiana? WOW… I’M SURPRISED! GOOD JOB, TEXAS!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:34pm
  57. A ruling for gays married out-of-state is not far behind. Even the mainstream GOP benefits from removing the teabagger’s favorite obsessions from the table.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:35pm
  58. Daily great news! Dominoes are falling..YAY! Congrats Nikki, shame you had to fight to have your basic rights..

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:38pm
  59. I am a Texan this is a huge step for Texas I know Nikki.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:42pm
  60. Those republicans must be on fire

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:43pm
  61. Holly Matthew But FL still wont. Smdh

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:43pm
  62. Proud of my state for finally doing something right… Now let’s hope same sex marriage is next!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:52pm
  63. Did I read that right? Texas? Wow…that makes my home states of Ohio and Pennsylvania even more embarrassing.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:55pm
  64. Great for her!!!
    But the family in law is just disgusting!!!!!
    Why in the world would you do such a thing after your son just died!!!
    Karma shall get them soon!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:04pm
  65. Texas has been working on equality for some time now. Progress has been slow but its been forward.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:04pm
  66. This is so wrong! A sad day for my home state.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:05pm
  67. I will NEVER understand how any couple’s marital status affects ANYBODY besides them… Good job Texas!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:11pm
  68. Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:20pm
  69. Damn. :/

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:25pm
  70. Yay In-law relationships lol

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:30pm
  71. if there happy

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:47pm
  72. This is wonderful! Proud of my state. Race, color, gender, sex, and sexual orientation do not matter. What matters is that we are all HUMAN. And all humans have the right to be treated equally.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:48pm
  73. Finally.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:51pm
  74. This is great news! Each step that is taken is a part of the success, freedom, equality and peace we have all been looking for. If all states at least recognize 1 part, they will catch on to the parts they don’t recognize. It takes time and each step helps. Stop the Segregation Stop the Seperation

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:51pm
  75. Kim ignorance can be taught, stupidity can’t.. if you can’t understand why this is a wonderful and life changing law, than you are not only stupid, you’re uncaring and a bigot..

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:16pm
  76. Good

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:17pm
  77. But not same sex couples..hurry up Texas, I have some couples to LEGALLY marry <3

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:21pm
  78. So how is it that trans people can marry but gay people can’t? Unless they’re about to change that too?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:25pm
  79. They are not male or female they are things

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:34pm
  80. Hooyah!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:35pm
  81. This is fantastic news!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:54pm
  82. Kim seems to be one of those radical lesbians that thinks trans women aren’t real women.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:55pm
  83. Next thing you know, Polygamists will also demand equal marriage protection. Maybe after awhile, the government will finally realize that it should never have been in the marriage business in the first place. That will be a great day for everyone and government marriage discrimination will end.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:02pm
  84. Marriage discriminate? Who marriages are being discriminated expect for those that can't marry. And marriage is a part of the government. Which is why you get all those special benefits after marriage.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 1:27am
  85. Polygamists think they should have multiple wives or husbands. They are prohibited from "re-defining marriage". The government needs to stay away from religion and marriage. I say we need to stop giving special benefits for anyone just because you marry the way they want you too. Its really not the business of anyone except the people getting married. People should be allowed to marry whoever they want without being told by another that they don't think its right. I am for marriage equality and freedom for all people.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 1:39am
  86. Winning!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:10pm
  87. We’re another step closer!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:31pm
  88. Texas doing something good? Can’t believe it, waiting for the joke to come.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:31pm
  89. That is awesome !

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:48pm
  90. Let’s see. I served on active duty for 22 years, 11 of them in the Vietnam era. I voluntarily did rescue and recovery work in Mississippi after hurricanes Betsy, 65, and Camille, 69. I volunteered and worked at the World Trade center before it finished falling down. Sired 2 kids, helped to raise 5, always paid my bills and taxes. I used to be a male but I am now female so that makes me a piece of shit – right?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:16pm
  91. You're a hero, that's what you are. Thank you for your service. Please take care.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 10:14am
  92. FINALLY something good out of the state of Texas!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11:04pm
  93. Awesome

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11:07pm
  94. Excellent, bring it on Australia xxx

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:01am
  95. I like how there is so much ignorance in this group still.. I’m so glad this was in Texas… Good job!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:43am
  96. WHEN will the president grow a pair and with the Federal Supreme Court backing him, mandate that gender equality is the law throughout the USA, for marriage, pensions, housing, etc in the same way that JFK had the balls to say “NO” to the racism & ‘Jim Crow’ laws of many reactionary states, enforcing the rights in the right using federal law enforcement to ensure it was adhered to. The first non-white president of the US SHOULD be able to understand & relate to that, why is he dragging his heels on the great inequality taking place in this day & age?

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:52am
  97. about high damn time!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 1:36am
  98. Fuck yes, my aunt and her wife are getting married tomorrow thanks to this ruling!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:20am
  99. Caiden McKay Hass that might be sooner than you think… they just struck down a ban on same sex marriage as unconstituitional

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:57am
  100. She was a man? Holy fucking shit he turned into one hot-ass-sexy-girl! That’s messed up how hot he came out to be!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:17am
  101. Its a step in the right direction, Texas. Keep going! Even baby steps are something at this point!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:37am
  102. ok Texas is even more backwards than we progresives origianally thought

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:49am
  103. Uuuuuuggggggg!!!!!!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:55am
  104. I don’t agree with it at all. My opion and i’m entitled to it!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:00am
  105. Izzy Gremlin

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:44am
  106. yes !

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:58am
  107. Just to play devil’s advocate here, I think Kim is saying that she wished things were going faster, and that the lawsuits blocking everyone from marital equality were going too slow for her.

    No war is won on the first shot. You have to march across the field to get anywhere. This was a major step, but still, only a step. There’s still a long way to go.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:58am
  108. wonderful !

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:05am
  109. Bring it to new york im serious thank u for saying that

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:13am
  110. beautiful:)

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 10:40am
  111. A legislative win in Texas- awesome. Was just wondering what happens legally if you have a legally married “traditional” couple, one spouse decides to transition, but they decide to stay married?

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:38pm
  112. Awesome! :D Amazing job, Texas.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:48pm
  113. Jessica

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 1:30pm
  114. Izzy Gremlin D’oh

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:07pm