Con: Bills would discriminate against transgendered
June 26, 2011 at 1:26 a.m.
Should legislation barring transgender marriage be passed?Bills to stop transgendered people from marrying died in the Legislature this session.
Touted as cleanup bills, SB 723 and HB 3098, sought to remove wording from a 2009 bill filed by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, of Brenham, that listed a court order recognizing a sex change as being among several identity documents that applicants could present to county and district clerks to get married.
House records show Kolkhorst added the sex-change document provision to the 2009 bill as part of a lengthy amendment in the last month of the session.
The amended legislation passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry a month later.
The latest bills would require the state to recognize a 1999 state appeals court decision that said in cases of marriage, gender is assigned at birth and remains with a person throughout their life even if they have a sex change.
Advocates for the transgendered say the proposed bills would not only prevent future transgendered marriages, but also open the possibility that any current transgender marriage could be nullified.
Brendan Gonzalez is single and ready to mingle.
The 30-year-old plant worker from Port Lavaca hopes to eventually meet a woman with whom he can share the rest of his life, preferably one who has a good head on her shoulders and likes boats.
"I'm not the type to chase people down or go search for a possible soul mate," Gonzalez said. "I'm very open to meeting people, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for marriage. I'm OK where I'm at."
Despite his optimistic outlook, SB 723 and HB 3098, both of which would disallow a court order recognizing a sex change as a valid identity document to apply for a marriage license, may put an end to Gonzalez's future marriage plans before they even begin.
Both bills are expected to come back up during the next Texas legislative session,
Born a female, Gonzalez, who now lives as a man, is in the process of completing his surgeries to become a full-fledged transgender male.
"Hopefully, this transition will help bring me one step closer for when I do meet that right person," said Gonzalez, who tries to remain optimistic about his ability to get married in the future.
Despite claims by the bills' authors, many advocates for the transgendered do not agree that they are simply cleanup bills.
"This bill did nothing but discriminate against someone because of their gender identity," said Chuck Smith, deputy executive director of Equality Texas. "The only thing it did was take out an affidavit of sex change."
Smith and other opponents believe the bill unjustly hinders transgendered people's ability to get married.
"They claimed they were only trying to do some housekeeping, but the only housekeeping they did was strike an affidavit of a sex change," said Smith. "If the intent of the bill serves no other purpose but to discriminate against people who are transgendered or gender diverse, then we are vehemently opposed to it."
For transgender advocacy groups, red flags were also raised at Lois Kolkhorst's seemingly back-tracking behavior after she proposed her new bill.
"From our perspective, it seems very strange," said Katy Stewart, chair of Transgender Education Network of Texas and board member of Equality Texas. "Not only did she propose it, the whole legislature agreed to it."
She continued, "In trying to remove that bit of documentation, it sends an unspoken message."
Stewart also argued that the bills lessen the importance of the transgendered community's vote.
"Although we were a valued community in 2009, now we aren't," said Stewart, who said her organization and its allies asked people to call and visit with their elected officials each time the bills came up. "We're still Texans. We're still a viable part of the community. Now, they don't support us."
Neither Kolkhorst nor Tommy Williams returned messages left at their offices seeking comment on the bills.
Although advocates for the transgendered say that even if the legislation is passed, transgendered people could still get marriage licenses using other state and federally issued documents such as a driver's license, school ID, prison ID or passport, they still worry about the possible ramifications of not accepting court orders that officially recognize a sex change.
"We'd like a pragmatic solution. For people who have had a sex change, the bill should facilitate the process of obtaining identity documents, whether it be driver's licenses or amended birth certificates," said Smith, who recommended transgendered people always use their most current form of identification.
Smith said these facilitating provisions are especially necessary because of the difficulties some people may already face in obtaining other identity documents.
"It may be easier to get a passport than it may be to get an updated birth certificate in a rural county in Texas," he said.
Hoping to have a relationship like his parents' inspiring 41-year marriage, Gonzalez remains optimistic about not only finding "the one" but also about being able to legalize the union.
"It doesn't matter what your orientation is. Everyone wants the same rights," said Gonzalez, who hopes to meet someone within the next five years. "It's only fair."