Safety and OSHA News

Transgender widow sues for husband’s workers’ comp benefits

The transgender widow of a firefighter is suing the City of Wharton, TX, for workers’ comp benefits that she was denied because she was born a man.

In 2008, Nikki Araguz married a Wharton County volunteer firefighter, Thomas Araguz. She underwent sexual reassignment surgery later that year.

Thomas Araguz was killed fighting a fire in July 2010.

Araguz applied for death benefits under workers’ comp but was denied them under the Texas administrative process. A judge also voided her marriage because Texas doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages.

Now she is suing the city for the death benefits.

Her attorney, Peggy Campbell, says the lawsuit isn’t about gay marriage. Campbell says this is about a man being married to a woman.

Campbell says if the lawsuit succeeds, Araguz should be entitled to a weekly benefit for the rest of her life or until she remarries.

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  • alecfinn

    When was he legally declared a she?

    That can be before the reassignment surgery.

    If so the marriage stands and she should get the benefits although since she was going through and went through with the surgery I think she should get the benefits.

    That surgery and process is long and torturous for the person and their loved ones.

  • VJ

    This has been all over the news down here. It seems to me that she considers herself a woman, and her husband considered her a woman. When they actually got married however, she was still a man and Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage. If they had gotten re-married, even if just at a courthouse, then she’d have a better standing on this issue.
    I used to be a volunteer firefighter also, and my department actually sent an Engine to her husbands funeral. He was a very brave man who died serving his community. It’s a shame that his family and his wife, who he obviously loved very much are getting caught up in left/right politics.

  • alecfinn

    The law should above all be fair and then human……….Marriage or any permanent relationship should be honored. He married her obviously someone in the courthouse saw or considered her female, and that in it-self should be honored. Laws are proved inappropriate all the time…. Sometimes it takes years look at Civil Rights……..and now this? What should be a medical problem…. and not anything anyone else need be concerned with.

    So his heroism (the Husbands) is to go unrecognized and his family not taken care of over splitting hairs? Talk about being so far off base as well as so unfair. I know this is not a popular idea but then Civil Rights was also unpopular and there are still problems associated with it albeit mostly reactionary

    As the child of a Fire Chief in New York City I was comforted and happy to see the other firefighters standing behind them (The husband and wife). That made me feel there is progress in the world but this other stuff is an insult to his memory and to their love.

    That to me is a greater sin than any hair splitting over her sex…..To become transgender means you have had Psychiatric Tests as well as other medical tests that confirm the surgery is to correct a problem the person has. What happened to Walking a mile in another’s shoes?
    Is this 2012 or the dark ages?

  • al

    The law is the law. Much like the civil rights act, if you feel it is an unfair law that needs to be changed, then there is a process to follow to have the new law inacted. You shouldn’t ask the court to simply ignore a law if they/or you don’t like it. That would open pandoras box to appling the law the way a judge feels like and not by the rules estabhlished by the legislative branch.

  • Tammie

    How did they get married in Texas? You have to show either a driver’s license and a voter’s registration card or a birth certificate and a voter’s registration card. In either case one of the identifications would have shown that the firefighter’s spouse/partner was not a female at the time of the marriage. The husband is and will always be a hero. He could have listed her/him on a life insurance policy as the beneficiary and the payment would have been issued. He did not. It went to his children that his exwife is raising, as it should have per the laws in Texas. This entire scenerio doesn’t have anything to do with being direspectful to the memory of the firefighter. Texan are honorable people and hold their heros in high reguard – firefighters, policemen, judges, volunteers, military members are all held in high esteem.