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Wharton transgender widow files suit for workers' compensation benefits

By JR Ortega
April 24, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated April 24, 2012 at 11:25 p.m.


WHARTON - The battle of a transgender woman claiming to be the widow of a fallen Wharton volunteer firefighter continues almost a year later - and this time, she has filed suit against the city of Wharton for workers' compensation benefits.

The suit was filed by Nikki Paige Araguz, which, in turn, appeals the ruling that she is not the proper legal beneficiary of Thomas T. Araguz III.

The firefighter was killed in a Boling Maxim egg plant fire in July 2010, according to court documentation.

A judge in the 329th District Court ruled their marriage void and denied Araguz the death benefits in June because Texas does not recognize same sex marriages.

A contested case hearing officer decided in November that she was also not entitled to the workers' compensation benefits, said Peggy Campbell, Araguz's attorney.

The next step after the contested case ruling, is to appeal it to the district court, Campbell said.

"We're going to take this all the way," she said. "We're not only fighting for her, we're fighting for all transgender people in this state."

Nikki Araguz was born Justin Grahm Purdue.

Also Campbell does not agree with the Texas law viewing this as a same-sex marriage.

"If you were born a man, you are always a man ... that's the law in Texas right now," Campbell said.

The city is the one being sued because it is a self-insured carrier providing workers' compensation, said Campbell.

Wharton City Attorney Paul Webb was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

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