Texas is a fairly conservative state, with Republican control of both houses and the state Legislature. The state’s presidential electoral votes haven’t gone to a Democratic nominee since Jimmy Carter in 1976. But now Texas finds itself in a tricky situation, forced to recognize a gay marriage.
The gay marriage wasn’t just any gay marriage. Sabrina Hill was born intersex, was legally listed as and raised as a male, but then transitioned to become a woman. She married her cisgender girlfriend Therese “Tee” Bur earlier this week.
Sabrina Hill had a sex change operation and became a legal woman (according to her license and other current documentation) in 1991, but is still listed as a male on her birth certificate. In Texas, where marriage is defined to be between one man and one woman, the situation was, indeed, very tricky.
The couple applied for a marriage license in El Paso in February, but they faced difficulties getting the license. The county attorney, unsure whether he could marry the couple, requested an opinion on how to apply the law from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. But, rather than wait for the decision, Hill and Bur went to San Antonio this past Monday, where they were granted a marriage license.
The San Antonio clerk was able to give the couple a marriage license based on a previous ruling, Littleton v. Prange. In this case, a Texas appeals court failed to recognize the marriage of a cisgender man and a transgender woman, stating that one’s sex is determined by their birth certificate.
While proper treatment of transgender people would involve recognizing a transgender person by their gender, not their birth sex, Texas can’t have it both ways. They have to decide if a transgender person should be recognized based on their gender or their birth sex.
If a transgender person is classified as their gender, Texas needs to recognize the marriage between them and someone of the same birth sex. But if a transgender person is classified as their birth sex, Texas must recognize their marriage with someone of the same gender.
Anti-gay folks in Texas won’t be too happy with this, as it requires something that resembles same-sex marriage to be recognized. But perhaps those who challenge the gender binary will make others see that gender isn’t so simple. And perhaps this will lead people to see that two people should be able to get married, regardless of gender.
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