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For once in her life, Danielle Pauline Severson must be glad she was born a man.
Her driver’s license says she’s female, which makes her legally a woman in Reno, NV. But in Redding, CA, she can claim to be a man, when it suits her.
How’s that possible?
Born as Dana Paul Severson, Danielle is a pre-operative “transwoman,” the politically-correct term used for a person born a man (with male genitalia), but who feels he’s really a female, so much so that he takes female hormones, dresses and acts like a woman and plans to have surgery to become a woman in every physical way you can imagine.
Danielle tried to obtain a marriage license to wed Rebecca Love in Reno, but was refused by Washoe County officials, because her driver’s license says she’s female. Nevada forbids same-sex marriages. Uh-oh.
But wait… right next door in California, Severson is considered a man. The two women can marry there, because even though same-sex marriages are also illegal in California, that state claims a person’s sex is based on his/her birth certificate. Severson’s birth certificate says she’s a “he,” so Danielle Pauline (aka Dana Paul) can marry Rebecca in California.
You’d think Danielle would be happy.
“I just wish all these states would come up with one law for everybody,” Severson complained, somewhat surprisingly. The very fact that the laws are different is what is allowing her to marry a woman, this time.
Severson, 49, has married women three previous times, but always as a man. This will be his first non-traditional marriage, as a woman to another woman, Love, 21. It will be Love’s first marriage.
Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, said Severson’s predicament is not that surprising, since transgender people can get caught between conflicting state laws.
“The same person may be considered legally a male in one state and legally female in another,” Minter said.
Lee Rowland, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, supported the grounds for Reno’s marriage license rejection.
“… we believe it is appropriate for clerks to rely on the gender on a government-issued ID to avoid the risk of invasively investigating someone’s gender,” she said.
As a male, Severson played high school football, was in the Navy and married several times before realizing he “didn’t feel right being a man.” Severson said she began transitioning to a female at the age of 40 and legally changed his name to reflect his preferred sexual orientation.
“I’m being true to myself. I got to be me, period,” Severson said. Except in California, apparently, where she is a “he” on her wedding day.
Transgender marriages such as Severson and Love’s open a legal Pandora’s box. As more states like Nevada and California ban same-sex marriages, what’s to stop such couples from claiming transgender status (real or not) to marry and thus receive all the legal benefits of marriage?
This article is part of the series, Fight for the Right America.
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(Photo: Jefferson Jackson Steele, http://www.jeffersonsteele.com/index.cfm)