How can we remarry after a dual gender transition?
December 9, 2011 11:28 AM   Subscribe

My spouse and I got married when I was still legally designated "female" and she was still legally designated "male," under our old names. How can we legally remarry, using our new names and identified genders, after gender transitioning? We don't want to get divorced (it's expensive and we love eachother) to do it.

A little background: yes, were has both already begun the transition process when we married, but transitions take a long time. Why do we care what our marriage certificate says? Well, we care for personal reasons, but also, it's surprising how often this document becomes relevant, and it misidentifies us.

A complicating factor is that some states let you get a marriage license by showing your driver's license, but some states require you to show your birth certificates. And while I have been able to change my sex on my birth certificate, she's not going to be able to do this, because the state in which she was born requires a court order based upon testimony from a surgeon who performed genital reconstructive surgery on the petitioner (a "sex change" to the "new" sex). As an intersex person who had nonconsensual genital reconstructive surgery performed on her as a child that has left her with unfortunate consequences (such as the loss of a large part of her capacity for sensation), she does not want additional genital surgery. And no, there's no procedure for an intersex person to go to court (assuming they could afford it) to say "the doctors picked the wrong sex for me" and have their birth certificates changed. In any case, this means that we can't remarry in our home state, which bases the issuance of marriage licenses on birth certificates and bans same-sex marriage. So, even though we were assigned to different sexes at birth, and after transitioning we are of different sexes, and we got married legally as an "opposite sex" couple, we'd be prohibited from marrying under what I certainly see as a morally repugnant same-sex marriage ban in our home state.

So: we want to have a second wedding, in which we are issued a new marriage certificate with our new names and sex designations, from a state that only requires us to show a driver's license to get a marriage license and does so for second marriages. Can anyone tell me what state would allow us to do this, or give other advice on what to do to remedy the situation?
posted by DrMew to Human Relations (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You may already know about them, but if not, the Transgender Law Center may be able to be of assistance.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on December 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

You can't legally get remarried without a divorce or an annulment. No judge is going to give you an annulment if you both claim to be in a sincere marriage, and you intend to marry each other again. It sounds like you don't want to go through the expense and exhaustion of attempting this. Sorry!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:42 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

It may be significant to see how the state you intend to remarry in defines "bigamy" or the related legal term they use to prohibit people from marrying more than one person. If it is something to the effect of " the condition of having two wives or two husbands at the same" (rather than say "the crime of marrying while one has a wife or husband still living, from whom no valid divorce has been effected"). The fact that you are married to each other in both instances may make the matter of more than one marriage a non-issue. In Florida, for instance, law states "Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries another person..."
posted by JXBeach at 11:46 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

nthing the Transgender Law Center.

also adding the National Center for Lesbian Rights to that list.
posted by anya32 at 11:52 AM on December 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'll second JXBeach's suggestion. Depending on the jurisdiction where you marry, it may be a simple matter of affirming that you are not currently married to another person.

And no, there's no procedure for an intersex person to go to court (assuming they could afford it) to say "the doctors picked the wrong sex for me" and have their birth certificates changed.

In California it seem you can just go to court with a declaration from a physician certifying that you have undergone “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.”
posted by exogenous at 11:58 AM on December 9, 2011

Also, try TLDEF.
posted by prefpara at 12:19 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

DC requires only a driver's license, but it does require that you not already be married (and you have to affirm that on the license application (pdf)).
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:25 PM on December 9, 2011

So: we want to have a second wedding, in which we are issued a new marriage certificate with our new names and sex designations, from a state that only requires us to show a driver's license to get a marriage license and does so for second marriages. Can anyone tell me what state would allow us to do this, or give other advice on what to do to remedy the situation?

I don't know anything about the Transgender Law Center cited above. That's definitely worth checking out. I also don't know what state you're currently married or living in. It probably isn't a state where I am familiar with the law, or licensed.

But I am an attorney—not yours—and I can tell you that although my expertise is in criminal practice, what you've described is the sort of issue that, if someone hypothetically (not you) walked into my office and described it and asked for help...? I think I could. There are some cases I'd immediately send elsewhere; if Bob has a workers' compensation problem, for instance, I probably can't help and I'll send him to a colleague. But this one, I would have some immediate ideas (in my state; not yours) about how to proceed. My point isn't that you should contact me for help, because I can't and won't help you with legal advice, but my point is that if I can think of a couple (low-cost) possibilities worth pursuing, then it probably is worth your time to have a conversation with an attorney who is more expert with family law. Find one licensed in your state, and if you're willing to relocate (even just for the marriage) then consider another conversation with one licensed in a particularly liberal state. Like I said, if I can think of some ideas immediately offhand, then so can they. If cost is an issue, consult your state's bar association about reduced-fee referred consultation.

When you sit down with an attorney, I'd caution you to be careful how you present your problem. Don't box yourself in. He needs to know exactly what you want, so boil-down whatever it is you absolutely can't live without (e.g., marriage license with new names and genders) and distinguish that from the things you'd like to have but might be flexible on (e.g., a second wedding ceremony where a legal remarriage is actually performed, as opposed to a just-for-fun second ceremony after the paperwork has already been effected). I say this because you seem to have some specific needs, and also some specific ideas about how those must be achieved, and I'm not sure you're correct about the latter from a legal standpoint, so be careful not to mislead the attorney into thinking that you need a particular facet that you really don't. It limits options.

Best of luck. If you do speak to an attorney and would be willing to share as follow-up in the thread, I'd be interested to read what options you discussed.
posted by red clover at 12:30 PM on December 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

You can't legally get remarried without a divorce or an annulment.

In some states you might be able to remarry the same person without first divorcing them, however I'm not sure that would apply here.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:34 PM on December 9, 2011

Additionally, if you need an attorney in the NY/Albany area, let me know, I have an excellent recommendation for a family lawyer who would be perfect for this sort of thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:44 PM on December 9, 2011

Interesting question, and I dug out my California-issued Certificate of Marriage. It does not mention sex/gender at all, just the two names. It was a confidential license. This was also 34 years ago, so things may have changed, and no idea how it would work if you were already married, but thought I'd offer the data point.
posted by sageleaf at 1:02 PM on December 9, 2011

Actually, on further review of that link for a confidential license, "living together as spouses" (em mine) is fortunate phrasing for you.
posted by sageleaf at 1:17 PM on December 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks to those who suggested I contact the Transgender Law Center--I've submitted a query with them.

@exogenous--state laws on changing legal sex vary a lot. Some make it much harder than others (and some states don't allow a change of sex on the birth certificate at all). My spouse's home state requires "sex reassignment surgery."

@red clover--that you as an attorney have some ideas about how this might be done in your state is nice to hear, as it makes it more likely there is a solution. And yes, I'm sure consultation with someone who practices family law is a good idea. With two transitions and one salary between us, our finances are already very strained, which is why I'm here fishing for free suggestions on MetaFilter. . .
posted by DrMew at 2:38 PM on December 9, 2011

Where I live (which is nowhere near you, but does not have gay marriage), being married and then legally transitioning puts you on the fast track to a marriage annulment. If you live somewhere that gay marriage is illegal, seems plausible that they might make it easy to annul marriages of people who become legally the same sex.
posted by emilyw at 3:09 PM on December 9, 2011

Some context might help in order to give a better answer. In what situations do you anticipate having to show your marriage license and to what agency (government, loans). There may be work-arounds if we know the context.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2011

Response by poster: Some more on why the marriage certificate is important to us pragmatically, and why I don't want a divorce or annulment: my spouse has a disability, and winds up periodically needing substantial amounts of medical care. She's also androgynous and intersex, and is subject to a lot of harassment and poor treatment, so I go with her when she needs to visit a clinic or hospital--not just to keep her company, but to be a witness to how she's treated, which substantially improves the quality of care she gets. But doctors, nurses and med techs often try to keep me out of her room. When we say we're legally married, they often don't buy it. Proving we're next of kin is important to us for insurance, medical care, inheritances, taxes, etc. And since I am the employed one in the family, my spouse gets her insurance through me. If we got divorced or annulled our marriage, she'd lose her insurance.

One of the things that makes same-sex marriage bans so unfair is that while we might work around some of these issues by getting a lawyer and drawing up various contracts, and relying on legal assistance if those contracts weren't respected, as a married couple we're entitled to these things from the state without needing all the time and money and insecurity that involves.
posted by DrMew at 8:41 AM on December 10, 2011

Thanks for some of the context DrMew. It helps (and here is an interesting article regarding hospital visitation rights).

Here's the thing. You do have rights but it takes a certain amount of money to enforce those rights (Being transgender myself I do understand the prejudices that are encountered). Here's my take on the whole thing and you're probably not going to like it :) bur FWIW, OK?

You're asking if, as a low income person living somewhere in the mid-west , if you can force change upon all the injustices that you encounter vis a vis your marriage and the transgender issue and I really think that the practical answer is , no you really can not do that. It sucks but that's the kind of society that we live in . Even if you do have some rights in your State ( and from the bits of description that you give it sounds like you have few if any) and someone chooses to discriminate and ignore those rights there's little you can do about it unless you have money enough to really fight back - which you do not have. Been there , got screwed by that .

You are just not in a financial position to fight this kind of crap where you live now. The very best advice that I can give you is to re-locate your life somewhere where the laws and the feelings of society are much more in your favor. Right now , even if you managed change the genders on your marriage certificate in the state that you are in now, you run a risk of some judge somewhere ruling your marriage is null and void - especially if one of you passes away and someone's family decides to contest the will. I don't think you are in a position here to change society around you - I do think that you should take a long hard look at doing whatever it takes to move to a different part of the country where the society around you is more in keeping with your needs. Me? I'd love to live in sunny Florida or someplace where the cost of living is a bit cheaper - like Arizona but I stay away from such places because the laws and the associated society just aren't worth the benefit. That may not be what you want to hear but it may be what you both need to live a more fulfilled life.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:49 PM on December 10, 2011

Oops one more thing (channeling Steve Jobs here) Here in Reno, Nevada you can do two things.
1. Get a divorce really quickly.
2. Register as a same-sex partnership which gives you a lot of the rights of married couples (including hospital visitation rights)

Cost of living here is also pretty reasonable.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:55 PM on December 10, 2011

Oh, yeah, and--while the DC marriage license application does ask for gender, the actual license doesn't mention it, or use the term husband or wife.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:09 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're already married, with all the rights and protections that entails. If "doctors, nurses and med techs" "often don't buy it," then you may need to carry your marriage certificate in a binder with other important medical documents and show the document while asserting your rights. (If you find it hard to communicate with hostile professionals, most hospitals have an Ombudsman to assist clients with problems with the organization.)
posted by Scram at 1:58 PM on December 11, 2011

You're already married, with all the rights and protections that entails.

Littleton Vs. Prange
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:41 PM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

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