Lesbians' plans to wed look legal
Bexar County ruling could pave way for trip down aisle

Copyright 2000 Houston Chronicle

Steve Campbell /Chronicle
Robin Manhart Wicks, left, and Jessica Wicks, a male-to-female transsexual, pose in front of a Rainbow Flag, a symbol of Lesbian and Gay pride.

A lesbian couple from Houston plans to legally marry in Texas next month, a prospect that has stymied the Texas Christian Coalition and its social conservative allies.

Next Wednesday, Robin Wicks and Jessica Wicks plan to travel to San Antonio, said their attorney, where the county clerk promises to grant the two women a marriage license.

It would be the state's first legal recognition of a lesbian marriage, and it is made legal because one of the women used to be a man.

Robin Wicks was born a female, Robin Manhart. Jessica Wicks was born a male, Grady Roland Wicks, and had a sex-change operation. Robin legally changed her name to Wicks because of their love for each other and their desire to wed.

The two women declined to be interviewed but agreed to be photographed and have referred all questions to their attorney, Phyllis Randolph Frye.

Bexar County Clerk Gerard C. Rickoff confirmed he will grant the women a license. He cited a San Antonio appeals court ruling that determined, as he put it, "you are what you are by your creator."

The two women were turned down in Harris County three weeks ago, when the Houston clerk cited the Texas Family Code's prohibition against same-sex marriages. The appeals court decision in San Antonio, however, gave Frye the idea to go there to seek the license. Now, the couple are happily planning a Sept. 16 wedding.

In a different gender case last year, the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio ruled in a wrongful death medical malpractice suit filed by a widow. That court ruling blocked the suit by negating the widow's seven-year marriage to the deceased man.

The court ruled that the widow, Christie Lee Cavazos Littleton, who had undergone a sex-change operation, had been born a man and therefore the marriage wasn't legal. The court said sex is determined by chromosomes, not by medically induced genital alterations.

Even the Texas Legislature's staunchest opponent of same-sex marriage says he sees no legal impediments to the marriage of Robin and Jessica Wicks.

"What a twisted world we live in," said state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa. "I agree that gender is based on chromosomes, so I think that would set precedent, and I can't disagree with that. I don't know anything legislatively you can do about that. You strike up the most bizarre situation in the world, and the law's not always able to contend with it."

Attorney Frye, a transsexual herself, said that if chromosomes matter but genitals don't, the court has cleared the way for same-sex marriages involving partnerships in which one person was born a male and the other a female.

"We are trying to point out how stupid the Littleton ruling was," said Frye, who represented the appeal of Christie Littleton, who lives in San Antonio. Frye said the Texas Supreme Court has twice refused to consider the arguments in that case, but the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in September whether or not to hear it.

"We're making it an issue with this (Wicks) marriage because the conservatives thought, with the Littleton decision, the prevention of same-sex marriage was secure," Frye said. "We're going to start encouraging all the transgendered people in the state who are in gay and lesbian relationships to take advantage of the Littleton decision and start seeking marriage licenses."

Dianne Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the Lesbian-Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, said the Wicks marriage breaks new ground not only in Texas but also, apparently, nationally.

"This is really new, and I don't know of any other case," she said. "Certainly Phyllis Frye out of Houston has been at the cutting edge of transgender activism for many years. Texas has one of the most outspoken transgender communities in the nation."

Rep. Glen Maxey, D-Austin, the only openly gay member of the Texas Legislature, said the unusual case in Houston shows exactly why government should not be getting involved in the private lives of its citizens.

"Because government got involved in something they should have never gotten involved with," he said, "you have these absurdities and seeming irrationalities."

On this point, the Texas Christian Coalition appears to agree.

Although the group believes in the sanctity of the male-female marriage, the Wicks situation boggles the mind, said Chuck Anderson, the coalition's executive director.

"Leave it to lawyers to come up with all these situations," he said. "It's creepy. I don't think anyone could even speculate in their wildest dreams that this could come about."


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