Friday, December 29, 2006

I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition...

Ohio can be a very silly, maddening and unfair place to live. To wit: couples seeking a marriage license in Clark County, Ohio, must take an oath that begins, "Do you solemnly swear you are not a transsexual..."

No, I'm not kidding. Click for yourself.

This is, of course, because of a ruling from neighboring Stark County that, under Ohio law, it is impossible to change one's sex. In re Ladrach, 32 Ohio Misc. 2d 6, 513 N.E.2d 828 (Prob.Ct. 1987). Ohio is very much in the minority on this point, as I discuss in my forthcoming Note.

You would think, from the plain language of the oath, that transsexuals are ineligible to marry. Of course, that would be unconstitutional by any standard, and that isn't really Clark County's policy. Instead, those who don't answer "yes," have to "answer some questions," apparently including whether they "still ha[ve their] stuff." Ironically, this invasive question is totally irrelevant under Ohio law as articulated in Ladrach. And it's not hard to imagine various couples in which one person (or both) is transsexual and yet they are eligible to marry under current state law.

This sort of reminds me of the April 2004 USCIS memo declaring that, for immigration purposes, the Feds would not recognize any marriage whether either party was transsexual. It can't have meant what it said, because trans individuals would be barred from marrying members of either sex! But this memo was apparently short-lived, as the Board of Immigration Appeals subsequently held that the heterosexual marriage of a post-op trans woman was valid. In re Lovo, 23 I&N Dec. 746 (BIA 2005).

Ostensibly, of course, the oath merely helps the county enforce state law. But it does so in a way which is needlessly confrontrational, appears to endorse some incorrect assumptions about trans people, and perhaps most importantly, may convey to unaffected couples the non-too-veiled message that transsexuals are ineligible to marry and/or generally suspected of attempting "fraud." (The odious deployment of the "fraud" concept with regard to trans people is also addressed in my forthcoming Note.) Dare I compare it to asking, "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party"?

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