When 30-year-old firefighter Thomas Araguz died in a blaze at a Texas egg farm southwest of Houston, he left $600,000 in benefits, property, and insurance to his 35-year-old wife Nikki Araguz. Nikki married Thomas in 2008 and says that her husband fully supported her gender reassignment surgical process which occurred two months after they wedded. But Thomas’ mother Simona Longoria has filed a suit claiming that Thomas’ side of the family only learned of Nikki’s gender history just before his death, and that after he found out, he moved out of their home and planned to end the marriage. Now his family is suing so she doesn’t get any benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.
Unfortunately for Nikki, she and her husband have already testified in a custody hearing that he didn’t know about her gender history prior to the hearing and that she did not tell him. Also Frank Mann, the lawyer representing Thomas’ family and ex-wife, is facing investigation by the State Bar of Texas’s disciplinary office for a possible ethics violation in publicly disclosing Nikki Araguz’s [gender history] during her mayoral campaign.
But as we’ve said, those issues are red herrings. This case really rests on whether the court decides to go with a 1999 case precedent that says that “chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender” or a 2009 Texas law allowing transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. Nikki plans on appealing if the court finds against her.
Interesting side note: Nikki is apparently filming a reality show called Being Nikki. It will cover her life after Thomas’ death, including the legal battle, her “lobbying for marriage equality, participating in a documentary about her life, writing her autobiography,” and apparently dating a suitor who apply to be on her show. She and Thibodeaux Productions (who we can’t seem to find on the web) will premiere the show in Houston’s 14 Pews microcinema this September 29. Maybe we can snag an invite!