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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 15 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 33
Arizona appeals court OKs Trans man's divorce
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Arizona appeals court OKs Trans man's divorce

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on August 13 that Thomas Beatie may divorce his wife Nancy Gillespie.

In a rational legal system this would not be news, and it would not have required the decision of an appeals court to do it. The U.S. legal system is often irrational, however, especially when it deals with gender identity and marriage.

Beatie is a Trans man born and raised in Honolulu.

Originally assigned female gender, he began to identify as male at the age of 10. At 23 he began his transition to living as a man, and at 28 he had sex reassignment surgery. However, he wanted to have children so he was not sterilized.

The state of Hawaii allows Trans people to change their names, and sex markers on public documents including birth certificates, driver's licenses, and health records, and Beatie was legally recognized as a male.

He then married Nancy Gillespie in February 2003, under the marriage laws existing at that time - in other words, as an opposite-sex couple. The couple filed joint state and federal taxes and bought homes together as husband and wife. Beatie was listed as 'male' on his health and life insurance policies.

Beatie carried and gave birth to their three children between 2008 and 2011, becoming known on the TV talk show circuit as 'The Pregnant Man.'

After the couple moved to Arizona, their relationship began to deteriorate, and they filed for divorce in March 2012.

In June 2012, the trial judge, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach, filed an order questioning whether Beatie's marriage to Gillespie was legally valid in the first place.

Beatie, the judge said, had given birth to the couple's children, and must therefore be female. And if Beatie is female, then his marriage to Gillespie is a same-sex marriage, and not valid under Arizona law. If the marriage is invalid in the first place, Gerlach concluded, Arizona courts cannot dissolve it with a divorce.

After several hearings on these issues, Gerlach denied the petition for divorce in March 2013.

Beatie appealed, and the Arizona Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with him.

In their decision, the court noted that Arizona law also permits people who have had gender reassignment to alter their birth certificates and legally change gender. In fact, the appeals court said, Arizona's law on sex reassignment is more 'liberal' than Hawaii's because it requires less extensive evidence to amend the birth certificate.

'The question before this Court is not whether the State of Arizona allows same-sex marriage or divorce, but whether the laws of the State of Arizona allow a marriage, lawfully entered into in another state, between two persons the foreign state formally recognized at the time of the marriage as male and female, to be dissolved,' the appellate decision said.

'At the time of the Beaties' marriage in Hawaii, that state only allowed marriages between a man and a woman, and Hawaii's legislature, like Arizona's, had established statutory authority allowing persons who had undergone a sex change operation to apply for and obtain an amended birth certificate reflecting the appropriate gender.'

Beatie and his wife may go ahead with divorce proceedings, the court ruled.

In a statement released by his attorney, David Michael Cantor, Beatie was quoted as saying, 'I feel I have finally been recognized in Arizona as not just a man, but a human being.'

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