Gay marriage's transgender loophole

California allows a woman to marry another woman -- only because she was born a man

Published March 15, 2010 3:01PM (EDT)

Officials in Nevada refused to let Danielle Pauline Severson marry her partner, Rebecca Love. No surprise there, right? Same-sex marriage is illegal in the state. But here's where things get mind-bendingly complicated: California has actually approved Severson's marriage license, because the state considers her to be a he, according to the Associated Press. The 49-year-old was born a man and -- having taken female hormones, changed her name and started wearing feminine clothing -- she is now a pre-op transgender woman.

So, why the disconnect between the two states, both of which outlaw gay marriage? Nevada officials go by Severson's driver's license, which lists her as female; California relies on her birth certificate, which lists her as male. There is no national standard for which form of personal identification reigns supreme. In one state, you're a lady; in another state, you're a man. "I just wish all these states would come up with one law for everybody," Severson told the AP. What she really seems to mean is marriage rights for all: "Why should I not be allowed to get married? Why should I be lonely the rest of my life?" Yes, why, indeed.

The irony in Severson's case is that she actually benefits from the state denying her personal gender identity. It also magnifies the absolute absurdity of handing out marriage licenses based solely on sex or gender, which clearly can be fluid and difficult to define in the eyes of state officials.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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