Questions Over Sex Change Snag Ariz. Divorce Case
An Arizona man who garnered national media attention for giving birth to three children after having a sex-change operation has hit a snag in his divorce proceedings that could prevent him from having his marriage legally dissolved.
A judge is questioning whether the state’s same-sex marriage ban bars him from ending Thomas and Nancy Beatie’s union - or even recognizing its validity. Thomas Beatie was born a woman and underwent a sex change but retained female reproductive organs and gave birth to three children.
Thomas and Nancy Beatie are eager to end their nine-year marriage, but their divorce plans stalled when Maricopa County Family Court Judge Douglas Gerlach said in late June that he was unable to find any legal authority defining a man as someone who can give birth.
"Are we dealing with a same-sex marriage?" Gerlach asked. He noted Arizona has banned such marriages and refuses to accept those performed in other states. The judge added no court here is allowed to declare same-sex unions valid.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said courts have declared marriages involving a transgender person invalid in a handful of cases across the country. But he said those cases had different factual and legal issues than those in the Beatie case.
Minter, an expert in family law involving gay, lesbian and transgender people, said he could recall only one case in which a marriage involving a transgender person who gave birth went through the courts. He said that union was dissolved in California about a decade ago without disputes about whether the marriage was valid.
"What you have is a man and woman who are married, and their relationship is ending," said Minter, who isn’t involved in the Beatie case. "And it’s no different, fundamentally, from other people in that circumstance."
Jim Campbell, an attorney for a conservative Christian legal organization that isn’t involved in the Beatie case, said in an email that the failure of the courts to protect traditional marriage has led to chaos and that children are being led into "increasingly bizarre situations."
"Sadly, the deep confusion created by these two women, and the biological father who helped conceive the children, is just a symptom of much greater societal problems," said Campbell, of the Alliance Defending Freedom.