PHOENIX — A transgender Arizona man whose divorce request was rejected after his marriage was declared invalid plans to keep trying to get his 9-year union dissolved, saying Tuesday that he wants the three children to whom he gave birth to know their parents’ marriage was legitimate.
Thomas Beatie, wearing a dress shirt and tie, said a judge’s decision last week to reject his divorce request was a swipe against his identity and could cause problems for him down the road if he decides to remarry.
He also said the ruling underscores his belief that Arizona is unaccepting of transgender people, pointing out a proposal in the Legislature that seeks to shield businesses from liability if they ban people from restrooms that don’t match their birth sex.
“This obviously is not Beatie versus Beatie,” Thomas Beatie said as he spoke to reporters at his attorney’s office. “This is the state of Arizona versus transgender people, human reproductive rights and fairness under law.”
Beatie, who plans to appeal the ruling in his divorce case, was born a woman and later underwent a double-mastectomy and began testosterone hormone therapy to become a man, but retained female reproductive organs and gave birth to three children. He married his partner Nancy in early 2003 in Honolulu and became pregnant because Nancy was unable to have children. Thomas Beatie conceived with donated sperm. The couple eventually moved to Arizona.
“Imagine what this is doing to my children,” Beatie said as he held the hand of his girlfriend of one year. “In time, they are going to look back and see that a court said that’s not your daddy. I’m sorry, that’s who I am. I am my children’s father.”
Maricopa County Family Court Judge Douglas Gerlach ruled on Thursday that Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriages prevents Beatie’s marriage from being recognized as valid.
Gerlach said he had no jurisdiction to approve a divorce because there’s insufficient evidence that Beatie was a man when he got married. The judge said the Beaties never provided records to fully explain what Thomas Beatie actually had done and not done to become a man. The ruling also noted that Thomas Beatie had halted the testosterone treatments.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which isn’t involved in the Beatie case, said the decision doesn’t set a precedent and instead applies only to the Thomas and Nancy Beatie. Still, Minter said the decision is legally flawed and demoralizing to transgender people.
The ruling saves Thomas Beatie from paying alimony to Nancy, but Thomas said he was willing to take on that financial obligation because he wanted a court to recognize his marriage.
He said moving back to Hawaii to start divorce proceedings there was impractical. It would likely separate him from his children, lead to heavier living expenses and require him to find new employment.
Michael Cantor, one of Thomas Beatie’s attorneys, said Beatie could remarry in Arizona, but he could create conflicts in Hawaii, where Beatie’s first marriage was viewed as valid and where he could later be accused of polygamy.
David Higgins, Nancy’s attorney, said his client will likely join Thomas Beatie in his planned appeal of Gerlach’s decision. “She recognizes Thomas as a male and recognizes that her marriage is valid,” Higgins said.