Loophole allows woman and transsexual to get Texas marriage license

SAN ANTONIO - A woman and a transsexual who was born a man obtained a marriage license Wednesday, taking advantage of a court ruling that defines gender only by chromosomes.

Jessica Wicks and Robin Manhart Wicks, who took Jessica's surname this year, were allowed to pay $36 to get their license, even though they consider themselves a same-sex couple. Had Jessica Wicks been born a woman, their marriage, set for Sept. 16, would be illegal under state law.

However, because of a state appeals court ruling that said chromosomes, not genitals, determine gender, the two will be able to wed.

Phyllis Randolph Frye, an attorney for the Wicks, said the couple has advanced the rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals across the country.

''We feel that this could open an equal protection argument from a legal standpoint because lesbian and gay couples can argue, 'Well, if this lesbian and gay couple can get married, why can't we get married?'''

The appeals court ruling upheld a lower court's decision that threw out a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton after the death of her husband. The court said that although Littleton had undergone a sex-change operation, she was actually a man and therefore her marriage invalid.

Frye would not disclose whether Jessica Wicks has actually had a sex-change operation or if she simply is taking hormones.

''Why should transgender people have to be submitted to drop-drawer inspections?'' Frye said.

Beaming on the courthouse steps after obtaining the license, Jessica Wicks expressed compassion for Littleton, who stood nearby with other advocates for transsexual rights. Littleton's case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

''This woman here, Robin, I love her,'' Jessica Wicks said. ''I love her with all my heart and soul and we deserve to be married. But I can't forget even for a second that Christie here has gone through hell for me to be able to do that.''

The Wicks, who live in the Houston area, had been denied a license in their hometown by a clerk who considered their union to be same sex. But in San Antonio, Bexar County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff said the couple met the legal requirements for a license.

Transgender advocates called upon the state to clarify the law.

''We are planning to go to the Legislature and say, 'You cannot have this both ways,''' said Sarah DePalma of the Texas Gender Advocacy Information Network. ''You cannot say that a heterosexual marriage is illegal and a gay marriage is illegal. Which is it?''

State Rep. Warren Chisum, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, said he doubted the Legislature would take up the issue.

''Virtually what we have is a man that looks like a woman that's getting married to another woman, and clearly that's within the law,'' Chisum said.

The Republican denied that the appeals court ruling could open the door for same-sex marriages. The Wicks' impending marriage, he said, ''is a red herring.''

''I don't think it happens very often,'' he said. ''You can't make laws to cover every little detail.''


On the Net:

National Center for Lesbian Rights: http://www.nclrights.org

GenderPAC: http://www.gpac.org

Christie Lee Littleton: http://christielee.net


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