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‘Pregnant man’ can’t divorce, judge rules

Posted Apr 4, 2013 11:40 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As the U.S. Supreme Court mulls arguments in a landmark case over the right under federal law of same-sex couples to marry the same way that heterosexual couples do, a ruling last week by an Arizona judge illustrates the difficulties nontraditional couples face under the patchwork of state laws now in place.

A transgender man, Thomas Beatie, was born female but underwent partial sex-change treatment, obtained identification as a man, was granted a Hawaii marriage license and wed, in that state, to a woman nine years ago. Now he can't get a divorce, a Maricopa County judge ruled Friday, because he was never legally wed under Arizona law–or, possibly, even Hawaii law–since it isn't clear that Beatie is, in fact, a man.

Hence, Maricopa County Family Court Judge Douglas Gerlach dismissed the divorce case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, according to ABC News and the Associated Press.

"The decision here is not based on the conclusion that this case involves a same-sex marriage merely because one of the parties is a transsexual male, but instead, the decision is compelled by the fact that the parties failed to prove that [Thomas Beatie] was a transsexual male when they were issued their marriage license," said the judge in his written opinion.

Although the ruling does benefit Beatie, in one way, because his client won't have to pay spousal maintenance, his girlfriend doesn't want to date a married man, attorney David Cantor, who represents Beatie, tells ABC. Meanwhile, at the same time that Arizona is telling his client he's not married, Hawaii says he is married. Beatie can't get a divorce there, though, without re-establishing residency.

Beatie, whose reproductive organs were never removed, became known as the "pregnant man" in 2008, when he did the talk show circuit after becoming pregnant when his wife, who reportedly had her uterus removed, wasn't able to. If it were not for the three children he bore during the marriage, who are now 4, 3 and 2 years old, Gerlach might never have focused on the issue of his gender and treated him as a man, Cantor notes.

Beatie expects to appeal the no-divorce ruling and may be joined by his wife in doing so.

In a separate ruling on Friday, the judge did require Beatie to pay child support of not quite $240 per month to his wife, Nancy Beatie, granted them joint decision-making authority and set parenting guidelines, Nancy Beatie's lawyer, David Higgins, told the AP. "He still sees a same-sex marriage, but he gave us all the rulings that we're asking for as far as the children."

An earlier Associated Press article provides additional background about the legal issues in the case.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Legal Gender-Bender: Dad-to-Be Pregnant"

ABAJournal.com: "Arizona Judge Ponders Jurisdiction in Divorce Case of Pregnant Man"

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