by Josef Molnar
HOUSTON, Texas – A Texas judge has decided to void the marriage of a transgendered widow whose firefighter husband died in a fire last year. An attorney for the family of Thomas Araguz III said state District Judge Randy Clapp announced his plan in a draft ruling.
The widow, Nikki Araguz, said she had passed the medical and legal requirements to show she is female and was married under Texas law, and believes she’s entitled to a combined $600,000 in widow’s benefits and her husband’s assets.
A voided marriage prevents her from receiving death benefits, insurance or any property the couple shared.
The Houston GLBT Political Caucus released a statement regarding the case, saying the organization’s leaders were “tremendously disappointed,” but said an official statement was premature until the judge officially publishes his decision.
“While we recognize the strong desire of the community at-large to understand this setback to the fight for equal rights, Judge Clapp’s ruling has not been made available to the public and it would be inappropriate to comment on the legal implications or arguments relative to this case until we have had an opportunity to review and analyze the ruling,” the caucus said in a statement. “We expect that to happen within the next 48 hours, and will offer comment at that time.”
Thomas Araguz was fighting a fire at an egg farm near Wharton in July 2010 when he died. He was 30.
Nikki Araguz said her husband was aware that she was still a man at the time of their marriage; she received sexual reassignment surgery two months after the ceremony. His mother, Simona Longoria, said he was unaware of Nikki Araguz’s status just prior to his death, and he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage. The family had fought to have Araguz’s benefits and assets pass to his two sons from a previous marriage.