WHARTON, Texas—The transgendered widow of a Wharton County firefighter has now filed a lawsuit against the City of Wharton after being denied her husband’s death benefits.
Nikki Araguz is again attempting to appeal a May 2011 decision by a Wharton County Judge that she is not eligible for her husband’s $600,000 death benefits because she was born a man. Araguz also tried for an appeal of the decision in November 2011, but was denied.
Thomas Araguz died while fighting a fire in 2010. Nikki Araguz was the deceased’s spouse on the date of his death, and his proper legal beneficiary.
Nikki Araguz has maintained that Thomas Araguz knew about her past as a man, and that their marriage was legal.
Nikki Araguz had sexual reassignment surgery after the marriage. The couple was estranged at the time of Thomas Araguz’s death and she didn’t seek a gender change on her birth certificate until after her husband’s death.
Currently, state law does not recognize transgender marriage as a man-woman relationship. Araguz hopes her lawsuit will bring about a chance in Texas law.