The Atlanta Family Law News Blog - Find an Atlanta Family Attorney

Widow Denied Death Benefits Because Of Her Prior Sex Change

Nikki Araguz was born as Justin Graham Purdue in 1975 but had a sex-change operation in the mid-1990s, as reported by KENS San Antonio. That alone isn't enough to make headlines, as gender reassignment surgeries have become more common.

She says her now-deceased husband, Wharton Volunteer Fire Dept. captain Thomas Araguz, supported her throughout the gender change process.  

But in the wake of her firefighter husband's death while battling a blaze at an egg farm, his ex-wife has filed a lawsuit claiming that she is not entitled to a share of the $500,000 death benefits because she was born a man. It may be different in different states, but it would be interesting to know how a Georgia family law attorney would interpret this.

In Texas, at least, 1999 case law prohibiting same-sex marriage also holds that a person's gender can't be legally changed from what it was at birth. Therefore, the plaintiffs appear to have some leverage in this case.

Nikki Araguz said the plaintiff's accusation that she kept her gender change a secret from her husband is false:

"I miss my husband. I miss my best friend, and this is ridiculous. He knew before, he was with me ... through the process."

The confusion stems from a custody battle with Thomas Araguz's ex-wife, Heather Delgado, in which he and Nikki Araguz swore under oath that the firefighter knew nothing about her sex change. Nikki Araguz said they lied in the deposition because they thought it might help the custody case; Thomas Araguz had two children with Heather Delgado.

Her sex change became more public in April when she was running for mayor of Wharton; she lost her bid.

You might consider speaking with an Atlanta family law attorney if you have questions pertaining to an unusual marriage or child custody matter.

Related Resources: