Raul Alonzo / Web Editor
On September 17, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Corpus Christi played host to the LGBTQ Community and Allies Solidarity Event for Nikki Araguz, the transgender woman who has been in a legal battle over her late husband’s benefits since his death in the line of duty back in 2010.
Nikki Araguz stands with her supporters at the event. Photo by Eddie Puente.
Over 150 members of the community participated in the event, and featured a sermon from Reverend Philip Douglas, a short speech from Regional Political Director, Christian Ucles and co-hosted by organizer Korbin Boomer Matthews.
Members from a wide array of organizations were in attendance, including Standing On the Side of Love, South Texas Women Liberals, Corpus Christi Atheists, Coastal Bend Texas Democratic Party, the International Socialist Organization, Bisexuals United, GetEQUAL Texas and the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church of Houston.
“I first heard about Nikki’s story because she is a contributing blogger for Huffington Post’s Gay Voiced and it was something that really hit home because it was in such close proximity to Corpus,” Matthews said. “This case is representative of a much larger state and nationwide issue and it was fascinating to me that Nikki’s case was literally in our backyard.”
Araguz was in Corpus Christi for a hearing in front of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in which she argued her case against the mother and ex-wife of her late husband, Thomas Araguz, a fire captain who lost his life battling a blaze in July of 2010.
Shortly after his death, Capt. Araguz’s ex-wife and mother filed a lawsuit to bar Nikki Araguz from receiving any of his benefits, insisting that the more than $600,000 go to the firefighter’s two sons. Their case states that the marriage between Nikki and Thomas Aragruz was not legally binding because Nikki had been born a man.
In the three years since the opening of the case, Araguz has become an outspoken member of the LGBT rights movement. As such, the story has become a rallying point for many pushing for LGBT rights, including marriage equality.
“Well it [the case] certainly polished my perspective on the issue and made it very clear to me that everyone deserves equality,” Araguz said. “It sort of strengthened me to know whose numbers to call and how to really effect change, and that’s by busting in and doing it. We need the organizers and the people who are going to do the sideline work, but it also takes those brave people to actually walk in the door and talk to the governor, and talk to the attorney general and talk to the senators and tell them that what they’re doing is or isn’t ok.”
At the hearing on Wednesday, the case commenced at 2 PM to a packed courtroom. The court will make their decision based on evidence presented at an earlier hearing in Wharton, Texas, where the Araguz family had lived. Araguz reaffirmed her commitment to having her marriage recognized legally, both that with Thomas Araguz and now with her fiancé, William Lloyd who had had their marriage attempt rejected by Harris County.
“If it [the decision] is in my favor I plan on celebrating and then filing a lawsuit against the Harris County Clerk’s office for discriminating against my fiancé and I by refusing to issue us a marriage license, and then I’m going to run my art gallery and maybe run for senate,” Araguz said.
At the conclusion of the solidarity event, GetEqual organizer, Koby Ozias, issued a call to action for the implementation of a non-discrimination charter for the city of Corpus Christi.
According to Ozias, the ordinance would be similar to that which was passed, after a bitter fight, in San Antonio – adding sexual orientation and gender identity to existing protections for public accommodations, city employment and other areas.
Nikki speaks to the crowd gathered for her support. Photo by Eddie Puente.
“Since there is no law making discrimination illegal here, there is also no way to report or keep track of it,” Ozias said. “That leads to a false claim that no reports of discrimination means no discrimination happens so there’s no problem, and we need to show them that it does.”
“People can get involved by contacting GetEQUAL TX and telling us their stories if they want to remain anonymous, or calling they’re council persons and the mayor,” Ozias added.