Spurned by Nev., transgender woman to wed in Calif
RENO (AP) – Danielle Pauline Severson takes female hormones, dresses and acts like a woman and plans to have sex reassignment surgery so she physically looks like a woman.
Yet the pre-operative transgender female, who was born Dana Paul Severson, will have to tie the knot to a woman in California.
After being jilted by officials in Nevada – which bills itself as the wedding capital of the world – Severson and Rebecca Love were granted a marriage license Wednesday by officials in Severson’s hometown of Redding, Calif.
While both states prohibit same-sex marriage, officials in California said the two qualified for the license because Severson’s birth certificate lists her as a man. But officials in Nevada nixed the request, saying they consider Severson a woman because that’s what her driver’s license says.
“I just wish all these states would come up with one law for everybody,” Severson said. “Why should I not be allowed to get married? Why should I be lonely the rest of my life?
“I’m in love with Rebecca. There are not too many women who would love a transsexual,” she added.
The two plan to get married sometime later this month in Redding. It’ll be the fourth marriage (but first nontraditional one) for Severson, 49, and the first for Love, 21, of Reno.
Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, said the circumstances of the case are unique.
But he said transgender people are often caught between conflicting state laws and policies about how to determine a person’s gender.
“The same person may be considered legally a male in one state and legally female in another,” Minter said. “This is a very painful and confusing situation for trans people.”
Shasta County (Calif.) Clerk Cathy Darling said her office issued the marriage license only after consulting with the California Department of Health.
“The state told us to reference the birth certificate,” she said. “It’s a legal gray area. State law doesn’t speak to this.”
Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Herbert Kaplan said he supports the decision of the county clerk’s office in Reno not to issue the marriage license to Severson and Love.
Nevada voters have spoken clearly that they don’t want same-sex marriage, he said, and officials can’t issue such a license to two females.
“What they were presented with was at least some confusion as to what the gender of this individual was,” Kaplan said. “I don’t think to their satisfaction, and frankly to mine, they could determine what the gender of this individual is.”
But he agreed there are no clear-cut answers as to how to deal with such cases.
“There’s case law to support that the gender of an individual at birth remains that person’s gender regardless of what procedures are taken,” he said. “But there’s case law to support that at a certain point in this procedure the gender of an individual would change.”
Lee Rowland, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, said her group is determined to do away with statewide bans on same-sex marriages.
“Until that day comes, however, we believe it is appropriate for clerks to rely on the gender on a government-issued ID to avoid the risk of invasively investigating someone’s gender,” she said.
Love criticized the Reno office’s handling of the license request. She said they had hoped to become hitched in Reno so her family could attend.
“They were so rude and ignorant. They just wanted to get us out of there,” she said. “They totally discriminated against us and I’m not going to let them get away with it because it was wrong.”
Love said she and Severson met on Craigslist and have enjoyed a close relationship for about 10 months despite their age difference. She wants to become a paralegal while Severson is pursuing a nursing career.
“We’re both really loyal to each other and honest and tell each other everything,” she said. “We’re like a regular couple. We’re just really committed to each other.”
Severson said she began transitioning to a female at the age of 40 after determining she “didn’t feel right being a man.” She has since legally changed her name.
“I tried my best. I was in the Navy and played high school football,” the San Jose, Calif., native said. “I’m being true to myself. I got to be me, period.”