Phoenix, AZ- An Arizona Appeals Court ruled this week that Thomas Beatie, known as “The Pregnant Man,” can have his marriage dissolved in the state, overturning a family court judge’s earlier decision.
The ruling from the Arizona Court of Appeals determined that Beatie’s marriage was not a same-sex union and is thus legally recognized in the state, paving the way for Beatie to pursue a divorce, according to the Associated Press per ABC News.
Beatie, a Hawaii native, was born female, but began to transition into a man in 2002. After undergoing a double mastectomy, chest reconstruction and hormone therapy, Beatie was able to change his gender on his Hawaiian birth certificate and driver’s license.
Shortly, after he began his transition from female to male, Beatie, got married, and he and his wife moved to Arizona where same-sex marriage is illegal. He and his wife, Nancy, wanted children, she was unable to conceive. Because he retained his female reproductive organs, Beatie was artificially inseminated and gave birth to the couple’s first child in 2008, and in 2011, he gave birth to two more children.
In 2012, Beatie filed for divorce, alleging his wife was abusive and filed for a divorce seeking custody of his three children. He hired a divorce attorney and began the legal process of divorce, but a family court judge denied Beatie’s petition, stating that his marriage was not recognized, since his “marriage was between a female and a person capable of giving birth, who later did so.”
Judge Douglas Gerlach said Beatie was unable to provide sufficient evidence that he was a man when his marriage took place and his marriage was thereby considered to be a same-sex union and Beatie’s request for divorce was denied.
The three-judge panel for the Arizona Court of Appeals, however, disagreed with Judge Gerlach’s decision and ruled that Beatie could proceed with his divorce. In their decision, the panel said that individuals who have their gender changed legally should be afforded the same equal-protection rights as any person of the gender they belong to, according to the Arizona Star.
The appeals court decision doesn’t change the status of same-sex marriage in the state, but it does allow Beatie to proceed with his divorce and clarifies the protections afforded to transgendered in the state of Arizona.
According to Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the last time and appeals court was asked to rule on a transgender divorce was in 1970. Minter told the Associated Press, “It’s a precedent-setting case that will protect a lot of families.”
This was unique case and doesn’t apply every married couple, but it does demonstrate the complexities of divorce laws across the country. Divorces are not always straightforward, there are often many issues that must be resolved. While the overwhelming majority of couples won’t face the nearly same challenges as Beatie, it doesn’t minimize the importance of having a divorce attorney on your side, especially when issues of child custody must be resolved.