Transgender People & Marriage Laws
My Story

“Our 2004 wedding was unique and distinctive. It was in an aircraft hangar. The altar was a helicopter and the reverend was a flight instructor, like me. Norwood made the card—he was an artist—and we entitled it ‘The September of our Lives.’

“Norwood died eight years later. And people kept saying you’ve got to collect his Social Security. So I went in for an interview. I thought they’d accepted it because they had all the information. I had changed all my documents back in the 1970s.

“It took a year, but finally they contacted me—and summarily denied my application, saying I was not a woman at the time of my marriage. That was a direct shock.

“Well, I got so mad that I said this has got to change. And that’s when I found Lambda Legal. They fought Social Security to change their ruling about this. And they did. And they changed the policy as well.

“Valentines Day 2014 I went into my bank account and I saw a bunch of money in it and I swear to God I looked up at the sky and I said, ‘Thank you, Norwood!’”

Transgender People & Marriage Laws

When the Supreme Court legalized marriage for same-sex couples on June 26, 2015, it was a great day for transgender people of all sexual orientations: the highest court in the land had proclaimed the right to marry to be gender-blind. Transgender people have a long history of being denied the right to marry and having their partnerships and marriages disrespected.

To read our FAQ about transgender people and marriage, click here.

Now, anyone can marry in any of the 50 states, regardless of gender—and also regardless of whether someone’s gender is recognized by officials in the state where they live.However, transgender people and their families continue to face marriage-related problems in the wake of the historic Supreme Court ruling. Here are some examples:

  • Some courts will continue to challenge certain parent-child relationships.
  • Not all state or local officials provide a marriage license that reflects a person’s gender identity.
  • Many states only have marriage licenses and certificates with “bride” and “groom” language, which may not be relevant for all couples.
  • Some officials may insist that a person’s name and gender be registered according to what is listed on identity documents, even when the information is no longer accurate.

None of these scenarios affect the validity of a marriage, but some may have the effect of outing people, and parenting disputes often have serious repercussions.

It is vital for governments and courts to recognize that gender identity defines a person’s sex. Lambda Legal is working hard to ensure that transgender people are acknowledged for who they are according to their gender identity, in the context of marriage and beyond. If you have questions or concerns, talk to an attorney or contact Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desk at 1-866-542-8336 or