The news outlets and social media have been abuzz with gay marriage rights in the past few years, with laws changing, and debates being had from all political parties and religions, discussing the right for someone of the same gender to marry. In Indiana, two men, or two women, may not marry. In fact, even if the couple married legally in a state where gay marriage is legal, Indiana’s laws state that Indiana does not have to recognize that marriage as valid1. A marriage between a same sex couple is void in Indiana.
However, a recent Indiana Court of Appeals addressed a rather interesting nuance of the same sex marriage debate. What happens if a man and a woman marry lawfully, but latter, one of the spouses legally changes his or her gender? In Davis v. Summers, the couple lawfully married in 1999, as a man and a woman. In 2005 the husband was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which means that the person does not identify with the gender they were born as. Therefore, the husband sought to legally change his name to a female name, and change his gender on his birth certificate to female. A trial court granted these requests in 2005 and 2008 respectively. Thus, the marriage became, by virtue of the gender change, between two women approximately 9 years after the couple lawfully married as a man and woman.
In 2013 the couple sought to divorce, and a trial court approved the parties’ preliminary agreement. But, 3 months later, while the divorce was still pending, the trial court, on its own motion, dismissed the matter all together finding that because the marriage was between two woman, it was void under Indiana law.
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, finding that the statue declaring marriages void between same sex couples is not applicable in situations such as these, where the marriage was valid under Indiana law when entered into.
We hope that you have found this information to be helpful. This is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or concerns about your case involving a petition for dissolution of marriage, or the validity of marriages under Indiana law, CIYOU & DIXON, P.C. frequently handles divorce matters, and can help evaluate your specific case. This blog post was written by Attorney, Lori B. Schmeltzer.