Thomas Araguz, 30, was a Texas firefighter who sadly died on the job this Fourth of July. He was lucky to have found love more than once in his short lifetime. His first marriage ended in divorce, but he later moved on to marry Nikki Araguz, who is now his widow. Or is she?
Thomas' family is attempting to get his marriage to Nikki Araguz annulled because they claim Nikki's history makes the marriage invalid. Nikki was born as a male in 1975 and has gone through procedures in order to live her life as a woman and wife to Thomas.
There is a 1999 Texas law, however, that outlaws same-sex marriage and denies the ability for anyone to truly change his or her gender in the eyes of the law. Using that as support, Thomas' parents and ex-wife have filed the annulment lawsuit in order to ensure that Nikki does not get the death benefits that a widow normally receives.
As Thomas' wife, Nikki Araguz would be the beneficiary of his estimated $500,000 in benefits. If the marriage is successfully annulled through the efforts of Thomas' family and ex-wife and they get their way, Nikki would get none of that money, and it would go to his two children he had with his ex-wife.
Nikki and Thomas Araguz were married in 2008, and she claims that Thomas not only knew about her gender change, but he supported her through the process. What complicates that statement, however, is that in the April child custody dispute between Thomas and his ex, both Thomas and Nikki claimed that Thomas did not know about her gender change when he married Nikki.
Nikki argues that they lied during the hearing in order to better Thomas' chances at getting child custody.
Whether that is true, or whether Thomas did not know about Nikki's gender change might not even matter in this case. If Texas law truly does not recognize the ability for someone to change genders, then they will probably rule that Nikki and Thomas' marriage was never valid.
If that happens, Nikki would be left with none of Thomas' estate and also the harsh and likely painful judgment that she and Thomas were never actually married (in the eyes of the law) at all.