10:51 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 11, 2010
AUSTIN – The Texas attorney general’s office has declined to issue an opinion on whether counties can provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples if one underwent sex reassignment surgery.
The question came from El Paso County, where Sabrina Jeanne Hill requested a license to marry another woman. Hill submitted a birth certificate indicating she was born a male, but her driver’s license listed Hill as a female as did a court order acknowledging that she had changed her name from Virgil after surgically becoming a woman.
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, noting that state law forbids same-sex marriage, asked which form of identification to accept. The attorney general’s office said a civil case in Wharton County was examining a similar question and it would not issue an opinion on an issue that was the subject of litigation. Officials noted that court decisions are binding, while attorney general opinions are advisory.
The Wharton case involves Nikki Araguz, the widow of a Wharton volunteer firefighter, Thomas Araguz III, who was killed fighting a fire July 4. Thomas Araguz’s family filed suit in July to prevent Nikki Araguz, who was born Justin Purdue, from collecting death benefits, arguing that the marriage was void because Nikki’s birth certificate proves it was a same-sex union.