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Is this weird or what?


Double Bind: Why a Woman in Missouri
Is a Man in Kansas, and Why It Matters

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- Eleven months after marrying J'Noel Ball, Marshall Gardiner died last year of a heart attack, leaving an estate worth $2.5 million and no will.

Typically, Kansas law would divide the estate evenly between a widow and any offspring. But in this case, Marshall Gardiner's only child, Joe Gardiner, hired a private investigator to check out his stepmother. The outcome was startling: Her Social Security number had been issued to a man. J'Noel Ball Gardiner had had a sex change.

Joe Gardiner sued, contesting the legality of his father's marriage, and the case could well establish a precedent for determining the validity of such unions. The issue is certain to come up again because sex-change operations in the U.S. are growing at a rate of about 10% annually, to about 5,000 last year, according to Nancy Cain, executive director of the International Foundation for Gender Education, in Boston.

On Jan. 20, a state court judge here sided with Joe Gardiner, issuing, in essence, a once-a-man-always-a-man ruling. But J'Noel Gardiner is appealing. Noting that Wisconsin, where she was born, had reissued her birth certificate to say she is female, she says it wouldn't make sense for her to be barred by law from marrying a man in Kansas and from marrying a woman in Wisconsin.

"Would the state of Kansas want me to marry another woman?" says Ms. Gardiner.

Only in Vermont and only since last week are same-sex marriages legal. But while most states will issue and recognize new birth certificates reflecting a sex change, Kansas won't. So, Ms. Gardiner is legally a woman in Missouri, where she lives, but a man in Kansas, where she got married. Solving this interstate anomaly might take federal legislation, says Andrew Koppelman, a constitutional-law specialist at Northwestern University Law School, in Chicago.


Full article in July 7, 2000 Wall Street Journal

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