Maricopa County, AZ- As advocates for LGBT rights are eagerly awaiting for Supreme Court to hear two cases that could likely legalize same-sex marriages, state court are struggling with how to handle divorces in states where it is not legal. Such is the case of the “Pregnant Man,” Thomas Beatie who lives in Arizona and recently filed for divorce from his wife.
Now a Judge in Maricopa County is struggling with the legitimacy of Beatty’s marriage, along with settling issues of dissolution, child custody and property division.
Beatty is legally recognized as man, though he was born a woman. Notes from his doctor state he became a man in 2002; after undergoing hormone treatment and body contouring which gave him the torso of a man. Even psychologists say that he is psychologically a man.
Beatty however was able to something no man had been able to do; he had three children. Though he went through different processes to become a man, Beatty kept his female reproductive organs intact and married a woman in 2003.
Now Betty and his wife are getting a divorce that is creating a legal muddle for the Maricopa County Judge who is overseeing the case. At question is the legitimacy of Beatie’s sex and the marriage.
According to USA Today, Judge Douglas Gerlach is unsure if he has jurisdiction to decide on the case because in Arizona marriage is only legal between a man and a woman, and the state refuses to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Judge Gerlach understands that Beatty is legally recognized as a man on his birth certificate and driver’s license. But as Gerlach said in court, “In other words, it appears that, by any reasonable standard (Beatie) was the biological mother of those children at the times they were born. As such, parties’ marriage was between a female and a person capable of giving birth, who later did so.”
While Beatie insists he is a man, Judge Gerlach is still confused on how to rule, and reached out to the Attorney General’s Office for guidance on whether the marriage is legitimate or same-sex and therefore illegal. The attorney general declined to weigh in on the subject, leaving Judge Gerlach on his own.
Both the attorneys for Beatie and his estranged wife Nancy agree that their marriage is legitimate and their divorce is like any other, but Judge Gerlach isn’t sure.
Gerlach said he would be able to rule on the case in early February.
Gay marriages are subject to the same fate as marriages between a man and a woman, and it is inevitable that some of these couples will want to divorce. But only a handful of states allow same-sex couples to marry. When these couple seek divorces in states where they aren’t legally recognized it creates confusion for family court judges who are tasked with determining child custody, property division and spousal support.
Unfortunately, in states without gay marriage, judges have no standard to follow and the divorcing parties are at the mercy of those judges. There is often no spousal support so those getting divorced must rely on the generosity of their spouses. Spouses often lose all their rights to child visitation.
On a purely pragmatic level, legalizing gay marriage would make it easier on judges who must rule on divorce cases. While there are many moral objections from the right, same-sex marriage would offer couples the same financial benefits and protections afforded to traditional couples. This could not only be a boon for the economy—the average marriage costs over $20,000-—but it would also give same-sex couples equal protection under the law.