Transgender Divorce – Texas
Rebecca Louise Robertson and James Allan Scott were married in Dallas in 1998. Robertson, court records show, was “well aware and fully supportive” of her husband Scott’s status as a transgender man. It did not matter that Mr. Scott was born female and had sex reassignment surgery. He was her husband, and that was it.
A dozen years later, in 2010, the couple split up. Robertson sought to have their marriage declared void basing it on the fact that Scott was born a biological female. Texas law prohibits same-sex marriage. A Dallas County district judge rejected Robertson’s motion for a summary judgment in the case, declining to void the marriage and allowing the matter to proceed as a divorce.
Scott’s attorney, Eric Gormly, said if the judge had declared the marriage void, it would have prevented his transgender client from obtaining a fair division of the couple’s property, due to Mr. Scott’s physical disability.
Gormly, specializing in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues, called the ruling from Judge Lori Chrisman Hockett “a significant victory for transgender equality in Texas.”
“To our knowledge,” Gormly said, “This is the first time any Texas court has ruled that a transgender man who marries a biological woman is in a legitimate marriage.”
The motion seeking to have the marriage declared void relied heavily on a San Antonio appeals court’s 1999 ruling, in Littleton v. Prange, which found that “gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.” Critics have argued that the Littleton decision is unconstitutional and isn’t binding in other parts of Texas. Other Texas transgender unions have swung on the Littleton case.
In 1998, months before he married Robertson, Scott had his breasts and uterus removed. At the time the couple had already been together for 10 years. He also obtained a birth certificate from his native state of Iowa identifying him as male. Scott, who wears a beard and mustache grown through hormone therapy, said no one except his doctor’s office knew he was transgender during the time the couple lived together in Cedar Hill, a Dallas suburb.
Scott suffers from scoliosis, but told the Dallas Voice he was a faithful “house husband,” doing the grocery shopping, caring for the couple’s dogs and “provided emotional support” while Robertson worked as a radiologist at the Dallas Veterans Administration Medical Center. “The only thing I didn’t do was cook,” Scott told the LGBT publication.
Scott and attorney Gormly alleged that in July 2010, Robertson opened a personal bank account and “cut him off” from the couple’s funds. “After 12 years of marriage, she basically was trying to shove him overboard without a life jacket and sail off with her new boyfriend,” Gormly told the Voice. After Robertson filed to declare the marriage void in September 2010, Scott filed a counter petition for divorce in February 2011. In June 2011, Robertson filed her motion for summary judgment.
In the latest development in the case, the validity of transgender marriage will not be tested in court because Robertson and Scott agreed to a divorce earlier this month.
After a judge declined to issue a summary judgment declaring the marriage void, Robertson planned to plea her case before a jury until she looked at the cost, her attorney, Tom Nicol, told the The Dallas Morning News.
When Robertson realized that taking the case to court, including the possibility of an appeal, would tally a cost of at least $50,000, Nicol said, she offered to settle the case as a divorce.
“Gender was never an issue for my client,” Nicol told The News. “It was the continued financial support demanded by Scott that she did not believe was fair.”
The agreement to divorce means “this case is not going to go down in the annals of the state of Texas jurisprudence being one of the landmark cases,” Gormly told The News. “At the same time,” he said, “it was significant in that it was the first time we’d gotten to this point.”