Monday, April 09, 2012

The Courts… It Matters Where You Live

For a trans-person buying insurance can be tricky. Two couples in two different state had outcomes that are a 180 degrees a part. In Minnesota an insurance company declined medical cover to a trans-person when they went for a physical she was denied insurance because they said that the trans-woman was not legally married to a man.
Court rules Minn. DOMA doesn’t apply to some transgender marriages
The American Independent
By Andy Birkey
April 03, 2012

A federal court judge in Minnesota ruled on Monday that a marriage between a man and a transgender woman was legal under Minnesota law and that a health insurance plan could not drop the woman from her husband’s health benefits. The judge said that because one person is male and the other legally transitioned to female, the couple qualifies as legally married under the state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

The case hinged on the marriage of Christine and Calvin Radtke. The two were married in July 2005 in Goodhue County in southeastern Minnesota. Calvin works for United Parcel Service and enrolled himself and his wife in his union’s health plan. Christine had legally transitioned from male to female several years earlier.

But after Christine’s physician mentioned her transgender status in her medical file in 2008, the union’s health plan terminated her coverage.
In Texas last summer, the family of a firefighter who died in the line of duty sued his widow, a transgender woman, for his assets. The judge posthumously voided the marriage because the widow was born male. The court said that the state’s marriage laws apply to the sex a person is assigned at birth, not the one the person has legally transitioned to.

Similar rulings resulted from cases in Kansas and Florida in recent years. Each decision pointed to the states Defense of Marriage Acts or to state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage as reasons to invalidate marriages.
So if you are married to a trans-woman, it matters where you live and what judge is on the bench if your marriage is legal.

It is another whole ballgame if you stay married after your spouse transitions.
Many people are aware that transgender individuals are often able to enter into a heterosexual marriage after undergoing sex-reassignment. What may be less well known, however, is that a transgender person may also be married to a person of the same sex. That situation arises, for example, when one of the spouses in a heterosexual marriage comes out as transsexual and transitions within the marriage. If the couple chooses to stay together, as many do, the result is a legal marriage in which both spouses are male or female. Alternatively, in states that do not allow a transgendered person to change his or her legal sex, some transgendered people have been able to marry a person of the same sex. To all outward appearances and to the couple themselves, the marriage is a same-sex union. In the eyes of the law, however, it is a different-sex marriage, because technically speaking, the law continues to view the transgender spouse as a legal member of his or her birth sex even after sex-reassignment. In short, marriage is a very real option for a variety of transgender people in a variety of circumstances.
By Shannon Minter, Legal Director
National Center for Lesbian Rights
The ACLU said that,
If one spouse in a marriage transitions, is the couple still legally married?

Yes. A marriage is valid unless and until one or both spouses get a divorce or annulment.

Even without a divorce or annulment, legal problems can arise from a spouse’s transition. For example, employers have been known to refuse health benefits to a spouse who is now of the same sex as the employee. Likewise, when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse may have problems collecting inheritance or tax benefits restricted to married couples. There’s very little law at this point on these issues.
The bottom line is if you are married or are planning to marry, check your state laws as to your eligibility to marry. If you live in a state like Connecticut, it is no problem who you marry, but in states without marriage equality it could be dicey.

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