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Appeal reaffirms Texas transgender widow's estate claim

Houston firefighter Thomas Araguz died in a fire five years ago. His widow has been fighting to be recognized as the rightful heir to the benefits of his estate ever since then. Late last month, a Texas appeals court vindicated her claim once again.

The result of the decision by the 13th Texas Court of Appeals means that the woman may be in line to receive more than $500,000 in death benefits. But the widow says her struggle has never been about the money. She indicates that it has always been about recognition for the validity of her marriage.

The issue at the heart of this extraordinary family law case is the fact that the widow in this instance is a transgender woman. She claims she has been denied due process because of a misapplication of Texas' one-time ban against same-sex marriage.

As we have reported before, the U.S. recognizes same-sex marriage across the country by virtue of a Supreme Court decision earlier this year. But it wasn't at the time that Thomas Araguz and his widow were married.

A year after his death, Araguz's first wife and his mother went to court to challenge the second marriage and a judge declared it invalid because of the gay marriage ban. But the appeals court reversed the original finding, noting that state law allows transgender individuals who have had gender confirmation surgery to marry persons of the opposite sex.

Last month, after the state's high court decided not to hear the case, the appeals court reaffirmed its decision and ordered the lower court to reverse itself.

While the widow says she feels vindicated, the fight may not be over just yet. She says the judge still has to sign the order and she worries he might refuse on principle.

Also, Araguz's ex-wife and children continue to fight for his estate.

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