Notes From a Scandal, Texas Style

There is a lot being said about Texan widow Nikki Araguz, who lost her husband battling a fire, and is now facing her mother-in-law’s and husband’s ex-wife’s attempts to seize all widow’s benefits and inheritance.  For those who are unfamiliar with the situation, I refer you to the Houston Transgender Center statement on the matter.  I won’t rehash all the details, but want to make some points.

1) The current strategy being employed by the plaintiffs against Nikki is to completely freeze her out, and this has even been stated as much.  From the link above:

Longoria claims that since Mrs. Araguz was legally a male before transitioning to female, and legally changed her gender prior to her subsequent marriage to Capt. Araguz that Longoria, not Mrs. Araguz, should receive all benefits and joint property. This includes any income earned by Mrs. Araguz during the marriage. Mrs. Araguz was the principle wage earner of the couple.

Capt. Araguz’s two children from a previous marriage will receive one half of Capt. Araguz’s $600,000 firemen’s fallen hero benefit regardless of the outcome of this case. They are also entitled to free tuition at Texas State Schools, as will be their children.

This means that she has been barred from her home out of the fear that she might remove anything from it.  She has no home, she can’t access her clothes or belongings, and it will likely stay this way until the matter is settled, possibly including the appeals process.  Typically, in cases like this, this is used as a bargaining tool for an out of court settlement, so that if a person is starving and disenfranchised enough, they will accept an agreement to take some of their material belongings and possibly a pittance and go, in exchange for surrendering any right to everything else.

Support in the form of donations can be made online at or sent via cheque payable to Transgender Foundation of America (noting it’s for the TG Center Nikki Araguz Fund) to:

Transgender Foundation of America
604 Pacific
Houston, TX 77006

2) In the press, it’s being construed that all the money belongs to the children because Nikki and Thomas Araguz are being said to not be legally married due to a Texas precedent that has created the situation where it is illegal for someone trans to marry a person of either sex.  However, in the court documents filed, the mother-in-law and ex-wife are the ones placing claim to the money.

3) The precedent being named, Littleton v. Prange, was an appellate court ruling.  It has been left to stand because higher courts refused to hear the case.  There seems to be some confusion over this, with an assumption that Littleton v. Prange is the final infallible word on the matter.

4) Part of what the plaintiffs are seeking also includes benefits in which she was named as a beneficiary, regardless of marriage.  So it’s not just about spousal benefits, some of this stems from a she-said she-said discrepancy about whether Thomas Araguz knew when they were married that Nikki was born physically male.

5) If you’re a couple in which one partner is trans, get your wills in order.  If you have wills already, make sure that there is a statement in there that declares that yes, you know that your partner had a trans history or is trans, and yes, the will is made with that in mind.  Such a statement means that a will cannot be contested in court on the basis of allegations of fraud.

6) Send your words of support to Nikki via her Facebook page.

7) Two months from now, when (if) this has died down from prominence in the news cycle, send your support again.  Because this could very well be a long haul.  If she doesn’t get frozen out, first.


7 thoughts on “Notes From a Scandal, Texas Style”

  1. I didn’t know Nikki was out of her home. Thanks for this comprehensive report.

    Are you on Phyllis Frye’s e-mail list? If not, I can send you her e-mail about this case. My point to her is that it shouldn’t matter (legally) whether or not she disclosed prior to her marriage. She is female, therefore the marriage should be legal; Littleton, notwithstanding.

    Of course marriage equality would render all of this moot.

  2. Rory,
    Transpeople were legally able to get married and did so before the push for marriage equality. Our marriages came under increased attack after DOMA was passed and once the right wingers hatin’ on gay peeps figured out that trans people drive a Mack truck sized hole in their arguments.

    1. Yes, I know that. That’s why Phylliss’s push to get gay couples that included one trans person to come to TX. to get married was so sweet.

      And if the hospital Littleton sued hadn’t gotten caught with their pants down, they wouldn’t have concocted the absurd notion that she wasn’t married to her husband and therefore could’t sue.

      Marriage equality is just a future dream of fairness.

    2. Before we passed same sex marriage in Canada I would not have been allowed to marry my current girlfriend but would have been allowed to marry my previous girlfriend. (This being one of the many fun side-effects of a legal system to which Sexual Reassignment Surgery is as much a procedure in law as it is a treatment for those trans womyn and men (sorry, the Alberta government believes in the gender binary in a much more absolute fashion than is needed…) with body integrity issues.

      That said, while for this trans lesbian, having same-legal-sex marriage is a good thing, the right to non-discrimination in employment, housing, and the same hate-speech protections as the cis Queer community gets (odd how we never got those the first time ’round, what with the so-called controversial Bill C-250 passing every reading in the House of Commons by voice vote and the Senate 59-11… especially when the member of the commons introducing the bill was in a party with an, at the time, vocal LGB*T* caucus, oh Svend… you are a more telegenic and circumspect Barney Frank.) are rather more important.

  3. I find it unfortunate that the GLB crowd appears to be more interested in using this outrage as a vehicle to further their same-sex marriage agenda. While I fully support SSM I object to the conflation of issues here.

    From a layman’s POV I see that Mrs. Araguz legally changed her Gender in 1996. That she had been married almost two years makes it implausible to believe that Capt. Araguz was “unaware” of her medical condition. That the marriage took place two months prior to GRS should not invalidate the marriage (based on Littleton, 1999). In my opinion the fact that the surgery took place so soon after the marriage seems to imply that not only was Capt. Araguz fully cognisant of his wife’s condition, but that the surgery was most likely, already scheduled.

    This is a horrible situation. I just hope and pray that the LGBT Community will stand up for this woman’s rights, and stop this spectacle which is tantamount to a public stoning!

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