The Indiana Court of Appeals recently overturned a Monroe County circuit court judge’s ruling on an unusual divorce case. The couple’s legal marriage status was in question when the once heterosexual married couple filed for divorce as a same-sex couple.
David Summers and Angela Davis were married in Brown County in 1999. During the marriage, David underwent a gender transition and legally became Melanie Davis in 2008. The couple filed for divorce in Monroe County four years later.
But the judge ruled she could not dissolve the marriage because it was void when David changed gender because of Indiana’s law banning same sex marriage.
Indiana University law professor Steve Sanders represented Melanie Davis. He says he, as well as both parties in the divorce, saw the first ruling as a misunderstanding of the state’s marriage statue.
He filed an appeal and the court overturned the initial ruling stating:
“A marriage between a man and woman that was valid when it was entered into does not automatically become void when one of the parties has his or her birth certificate amended to indicate a change of gender. The statute prohibiting same-sex marriage does not apply to the particular set of circumstances in this case because the parties did not enter into a same-sex marriage in Indiana or into a same-sex marriage that was solemnized in another state.”
Sanders says the ruling will likely serve as an example when this issue comes up in other courts.
“Around the country there are probably more couples in this situation than many people realize.” Sanders says. “That is a couple who was male and female at the time being married and then one of them transitioned genders and many of them wished to stay married.”
Sanders says couples in this situation need confirmation their marriage won’t become void automatically if one of the parties undergoes a gender change.
Sanders says the Indiana appellate court’s decision is the first one documented involving gender change within a legal marriage.