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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Transgender Widow Seeks Benefits

WHARTON, Texas (CN) - The transgender widow of a South Texas firefighter sued the City of Wharton this week for workers' compensation benefits she was denied because she was born a man.

Nikki Paige Araguz, who was born Justin Graham Purdue, seeks judicial review of a finding that she is not the proper legal beneficiary of Thomas T. Araguz III.

He was a Wharton County volunteer firefighter who was killed in July 2010 while fighting a fire at an egg plant, according to court records.

Wharton County Judge Randy voided their marriage last year and denied Nikki Araguz death benefits because Texas does not recognize same-sex marriages, the Victoria (Texas) Advocate reported.

Peggy Campbell, Araguz's attorney, told the Advocate that she disagrees with the finding that this is a same-sex marriage.

"If you were born a man, you are always a man ... that's the law in Texas right now," Campbell told the Advocate.

A contested-case hearing officer ruled in November 2011 that Araguz was also not entitled to workers' compensation benefits, Campbell told the Advocate.

Campbell said the next step after the contested case ruling is to appeal to the district court. She said the city is being sued because it is a self-insured carrier providing workers' compensation.

"We're going to take this all the way," Campbell said. "We're not only fighting for her, we're fighting for all transgender people in this state."

Wharton, pop. 9,200, is southwest of Houston.

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