Appeals court rules gender change does not invalidate marriage

2013-12-20T20:00:00Z 2013-12-21T11:54:06Z Appeals court rules gender change does not invalidate marriageDan Carden, (317) 637-9078
December 20, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The state law limiting marriage to opposite-gender partners cannot be used to invalidate a marriage if one partner later changes his or her gender identity, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

David Paul Summers, a Cedar Lake native, married Angela Summers on Oct. 30, 1999, in Brown County, Ind. They have one child.

According to court records, at some point during the marriage he was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a disorder where a person's gender at birth is different than the gender that person identifies with.

In 2005, Summers legally changed his name to Melanie Davis. Three years later, a Marion County judge ordered the gender designation on Davis' birth certificate changed to "female" from "male," to conform with her gender identity, legal name and appearance.

Davis and Angela Summers separated in 2008. Davis filed for divorce in 2012. Summers did not contest the divorce and the couple reached a provisional order that granted custody of their child to Davis and required Summers pay child support.

However, Democratic Monroe Circuit Judge Valeri Haughton rejected the divorce petition.

She ruled the marriage was automatically invalidated when Davis' birth certificate was changed and the union consisted of two women.

Haughton said she could not dissolve a marriage that is not a legal marriage because it already is void.

In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court overturned Haughton's finding.

It ruled that Davis and Summers' marriage remains valid, and must be dissolved through traditional means because at the time of their wedding they fully complied with the state marriage law that reads, "Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female."

Appeals Judge Paul Mathias said the state's ban on same-sex marriage does not apply in this case because Davis and Summers did not enter into a same-sex marriage.

He said there is no provision in the Indiana Code that voids a legal marriage simply because one of the parties to that marriage changes his or her gender.

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