Maricopa County, AZ- This week, as the Supreme Court heard testimony for two cases challenging the federal ban on gay marriage, an Arizona judge has refused to grant a divorce to a transgendered man, who gave birth to three children during his marriage.
Maricopa County Family Court judge rules that Beatie’s marriage could not be dissolved, because the court does not recognize his marriage as valid, ABC News reported.
Thomas Beatie was born a woman but underwent a double mastectomy and began testosterone treatment to change from a female to male. Beatie kept his reproductive organs intact and discontinued testosterone treatment since his wife Nancy was unable to have children.
Their marriage became troubled, with Thomas alleging his wife was mentally and physically abusive, so he began the process of divorce, and asked for custody of their three children.
Although the couple was legally married in Hawaii, Judge Gerlach said their marriage was not recognized since Beatie was unable to provide sufficient proof that he was a man when the couple was wed; they did not provide documentation on what had been done and not done to change Beatie into a man.
“The decision here is not based on the conclusion that this case involves a same-sex marriage merely because one of the parties is a transsexual male, but instead, the decision is compelled by the fact that the parties failed to prove that (Thomas Beatie) was a transsexual male when they were issued their marriage license,” Gerlach wrote in last Friday’s ruling, ABC news reported.
Ryan Gordon, a spokesman for Beatie said his client was shocked and that at no point was Thomas asked to disclose that he retained female reproductive organs when he applied for a new birth certificate following his gender-reassignment surgery.
Despite ruling their marriage invalid, Judge Gerlach granted Nancy Beatie custody of the couple’s three children and ordered Thomas to pay $240 a month in child support. Judge Gerlach also set out guidelines on how the Beaties will co-parent their children together and gave then equal authority to make legal decisions. However Nancy Beatie was not awarded alimony since their marriage was invalid under Arizona law.
Nancy Beatie’s attorney was pleased with child custody ruling, but said his client was disappointed that the judge did not recognize her marriage to Thomas.
Because gay marriage is not recognized in all states, couples who marry in a state where their marriage is recognized can face serious challenges in court if they decide to dissolve their union. They have none of the same legal protections in regards to division of assets and child custody.
This case highlights the trials same-sex couples face when they seek to dissolve their union in states that don’t recognize the validity of their marriage. With a patchwork of gay marriage laws across the country, judges on the state level are faced with significant challenges when gay couples enter their courts.
This month the Supreme Court heard two cases related to gay marriage, one of which seeks to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. Should DOMA be overturned state judges could feasibly recognize same-sex unions as valid and divorcing gay couples would be granted the same parental and spousal rights as traditional couples.