I’m a recent bride. That means in the midst of our discussions of tulle, tuxes, and possible rainouts a couple of months ago, my fiancé and I applied for our marriage license, which required that we solemnly swear, under penalty of perjury, “that one of the applicants is a man and the other is a woman.” Ugh. Signing that application is an unpleasant step for those of us who strongly feel marriage is the right of everyone, gay or straight. And while the “one man, one woman” oath outright prohibits gay marriage, it can cause a tricky mess for transgender people who have had their sex changed.
Here’s the breakdown: In most states, your post-surgery gender determines who you can marry—so if a man transitions to a woman, she can use a court order to have her sex changed to female on her driver’s license and legally marry a man. In a tiny minority of states, the courts refuse to acknowledge the new gender, leaving the transitioned person in a strange no-heterosexual-marriage-allowed-for-you limbo. In one very special state (Texas), the governor (Rick Perry) has bungled the issue in a Republican debacle (wherein he accidentally signed a bill in 2009 okaying a transitioned person to marry their opposite-sex partner) and is now supporting efforts to strip away this right (which would nullify the transgender marriages that have taken place during the past two years). As the Huffington Post (4/25/11) puts it:
Gov. Rick Perry’s spokesman Mark Miner said the governor never intended to allow transgendered people to get married. He said the three-word sex change provision was sneaked through on a larger piece of legislation Perry signed.
It’s a rough world we live in where a leader can openly say, I never intended to allow you this basic human right—and now I’m trying to take it back. The rescinded rights would have real effects on Texas widow Nikki Araguz, who was born male and had her gender reassigned through surgery; she married her volunteer firefighter husband in the two-year window unwittingly opened by Governor Perry and is now battling for the right to his estate.
Which brings us back to the same-sex marriage debate and the dire need for legal recognition of life partnership, no matter who is signing the marriage license.