Alex Blaze

Can we really define "bride" and "groom"?

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 25, 2008 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Antonio Blount, bride, Justin McCain, marriage, names, Penelopsky Aaryonna Goldberry, SRS, Virginia

Monica Helms guest posted a couple weeks ago about how we cannot define "man" and "woman" in marriage; Mercedes Allen posted this weekend about how defining marriage as between one man and one woman leads to confusing policy towards transgender people.

This story provides an interesting twist, as Antonio E. Blount and Justin L. McCain got married in Virginia. Justin passed as a woman, said his name was Justine, and showed his driver's license, on which the "M" was covered by the state seal.

The question of whether charges will be filed or not rests on whether they "knowingly misled" the officials. They had to swear that everything on the application was true, and it didn't ask their genders:

Newport News investigators will decide whether there was false information on the marriage license application, said Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn. Though Davis said applicants must swear to the truth of the information on their marriage license, the application mentioned "groom" and "bride," not male and female.

That has been changed to say "male applicant," and "female applicant," Davis said.

Interestingly enough, if had actually been MtF transgender, the AP article indicates that he probably would have been able to marry.

It's interesting to think about where this takes the gender binary. Suppose the commonwealth of Virginia recognized transgender people by their gender identity instead of their birth gender, where and how exactly would the former be defined? SRS? Some SRS procedures, but not all? OK from a doctor? Living as the other gender? Full-time or part-time? How about just enough time to get through the ceremony?

Honestly, this seems like a good argument to just get rid of gender discrimination in marriage law (can I get an "ERA"?). I don't want Big Government deciding what gender I am; I'm an adult, let me decide.

But this couple probably isn't a good place to push the issue. While I'm already questioning what they thought they were going to do with the marriage considering that in asking for most rights associated with it people would notice that they're both men, and those aren't recognized in Virginia.

Another sign that this wouldn't be an easy couple to work with is that Justin called the same courthouse 19 miles away from his hometown a couple weeks later to change his name to "Penelopsky Aaryonna Goldberry." That's how they caught him on the marriage.

It's a creative name, but everyone would have just ended up calling him "Penny" for short.

(via broadsheet)

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No matter how many ways they try to box us in with binary definitions and terms, someone is bound to find a hole in the box to climb through. It's like trying to convince everyone that the physical world has just two dimentions. It's a rather flat viewpoint if you ask me.

And yes, Monica, it would seem to reason that the flat viewpoint is grounded in the interpretations of those who view the world as flat and 5,000 years old. The binary definitions we've lived with for the past many years are now obsolete with the advent of scientific knowledge. In my opinion, this is what confounds those who prefer to use the simplicity of the Bible as their guide to think. (Shall I quote Senator Obama here?)

The 21st century is the time those of us who can think outside the box to enlighten those who cannot.

The Fundies have brought this on themselves.

From the American Bar Association:

In Chicago, the trial judge ruled that Sterling S., a transsexual man who had undergone extensive medical treatment and lived exclusively as a man for more than twenty years, was nonetheless legally female, that his fifteen-year marriage to his wife Jennifer was invalid, and that he was not a legal parent to the couple's ten-year-old son.

After Christie's husband died in surgery, she filed a medical malpractice claim. The doctor responded by arguing that the couple's marriage was invalid and that she did not have standing to bring a wrongful death claim. The trial court dismissed Christie's claim on that basis. The Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, concluding that "Christie was created and born a male" and continued to be legally male, regardless of her gender identity or how much medical treatment she had undergone. Littleton v. Prange, 9 S.W.3d 223, 231 (Tex. App. 1999). Shortly thereafter, J'Noel Gardiner, a transsexual woman in Kansas, faced a similar challenge to the validity of her marriage, with a similar outcome. When J'Noel's husband died intestate, his estranged son sued to invalidate the couple's marriage in order to inherit their estate. The trial court ruled in the son's favor, and the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the trial court decision in an opinion that drew heavily upon the decision in Littleton. Estate of Gardiner, 42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002).

It used to be that at least the Birth Certificate was meaningful. Something that could be altered only after surgery.

But these decisions, and others, made birth certificates meaningless. They made surgical status irrelevant. They ignored the reality of body form, and decades of living in the true gender.

So now they've made all that meaningless, they have no-one but themselves to blame if people don't jump through those meaningless hoops.

As long as each of the 50 states and D.C. continue to define who can marry whom, and the legal status of transgender people, this will continue to make the lives of all of us way more difficult than it should be.

The answer? I don't know. There is a significant LGBT population in this country, and gaining our rights should not be on the whims of
politicians who are bigots. It is the denial of these rights that is unpatriotic and unAmerican.
Liberty and justice for all should mean just that.

We could learn from our African-American brothers and sisters that rights aren't freely given. Sometimes they must be demanded.

Sometimes, more has to be done....

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 16, 2008 6:32 PM

It's like trying to convince everyone that the physical world has just two dimentions.

Monica, that's such a perfect analogy!!!

Zoe, those two legal cases you cited horrify and sicken me.

They also give the lie to those people who accuse us of transitioning to gain "heterosexual privilege."