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Firefighter’s Widow Denied Death Benefits After Husband Killed In Fire



When Nikki Araguz stepped into a Wharton County, Texas courtroom, she stood much more to lose than the $600,000 in death benefits which would be assigned to her if the court deemed her marriage to Thomas Araguz invalid.  She stood to lose her legal claim to marriage.

Thomas Araguz was a firefighter in Wharton, Texas. Last year, while fighting a large fire at an egg farm, Thomas and two other firefighters became trapped inside when the burning building collapsed.  Rescuers were able to locate and save Thomas’ colleagues, but Thomas remained trapped and died from the injuries.

Thereafter, Thomas’ family filed suit against his widow claiming that his marriage to Nikki was invalid under Texas Law and that Nikki should not receive any of the death benefits from her relationship with Thomas. Judge Clapp ruled in favor of Thomas’ extended family declaring his marriage to Nikki invalid.

However, before the judge even ruled on the case, society had denied Nikki her marriage.  In fact, when a service was held and Thomas’ name was added to the list of fallen firefighters at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, Nikki was not allowed to attend and be recognized as Thomas’ wife. She was not presented with the flag like so many other widows who have suffered the same loss.

But why? Why would society turn their back on the widow of a fallen hero? Why would the same society that honors so many fallen firefighters and their widows suddenly shun Nikki, ignoring her grief? Their excuse? Nikki is transsexual. Having been born intersex and declared “male,” she later conformed her body to her true gender identity. The family argued that Thomas was unaware that Nikki was transsexual; however, evidence presented in the case showed otherwise.

Texas law clearly bans marriages between two consenting and loving adults if their birth certificate gender markers match. In fact, it goes a step further to ban anything similar to marriage (which could arguably disallow persons of the same gender from entering into business partnerships or forming corporations due to the vagueness of the ban in that regard.) In a similar ruling by the 5th Circuit Court, Littleton v. Prange, 9 SW 3d 223 (Tex.App.-San Antonio, 1999), the court held that, as a matter of law, Christie Littleton, a male to female transsexual, is legally a male and therefore her marriage to another male was invalid. The irony of this ruling is that it created what is known as the “Littleton Loophole” in Texas law which allows for same-sex marriage. For example, a male to female transsexual can legally marry a biological female when Littleton is applied. The gender markers on each of their birth certificates would be opposite (presuming the birth certificate has not been amended.)

Perhaps even more interesting is the concurring opinion in the Littleton case of Justice Karen Angelini, who stated that she concurred with the opinion only in the absence of “any legislative guidelines for determining whether Texas law will recognize a marriage between a male-to-female transsexual and a male.”

However, in 2009, legislative guidelines were provided which clearly established legislative intent to allow for such marriages. Section 2.005(b)(8), Texas Family Code was amended to allow for an applicant for a marriage license to use a certificate or court order relating to the applicant’s sex change to be used as “proof” of identity. Although efforts were made by Senator Williams to amend the bill this legislative session and remove the “and sex change” language, the effort was unsuccessful.

The present case highlights the need for change in our government. Until such time as marriage equality exists, all of us are in danger of falling victim to our government’s tyranny, as did Nikki Araguz and Christie Lee Littleton. While many argue that same-sex marriage is not a transgender issue, these cases clearly evidence otherwise.

However, we cannot simply focus on the micro issues.  Our community suffers gravely due to health care and insurance barriers, discrimination in public accommodations and employment, marriage inequalities and other government sanctioned discrimination.  We must continue the fight for full federal equality in all matters governed by civil law with no excuses, no compromises and no caveats.

Equal must mean equal.


Jay Morris is a State Lead for GetEQUAL​.org, a founding member of the Direct Action Network San Antonio, a writer for Ignite San Antonio Magazine, and blogger at jaysays​.com. You can find him posting randomness on Twitter or engage him in conversation on Facebook.

Read Jay Morris’ most recent piece at The New Civil Rights Movement, “The T In Me: Living The Gender Binary,”

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‘Like Al Capone Complaining About Organized Crime’: Jim Jordan Slammed for Demanding Manhattan DA Testify



House Republican Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan is under fire after sending notice to Alvin Bragg on Monday demanding the Manhattan District Attorney currently investigating Donald Trump’s possibly unlawful payoff to Stormy Daniels testify before Congress to explain the ongoing case.

Legal experts have said Jordan’s letter, which was also signed by the powerful House Oversight Chair Jim Comer, could be considered obstruction of justice.

Late Tuesday morning Jordan took to Twitter to defend his actions, which many see as an attempt to intimidate the Manhattan DA and interfere with the potential prosecution of the ex-president.

“Democrats think it’s ok for them to examine and defund local police,” Jordan said. “But not ok for Republicans to examine a local prosecutor in Manhattan abusing his power to take down a political opponent.”

READ MORE: Trump’s Lawyer in Stormy Daniels Case Back in 2018 Called Hush Money Payoff ‘Illegal’: Report

The Judiciary Chair, who has a law degree from Capital University in Ohio, appeared to not understand that he does not have oversight authority over a duly-elected county district attorney.

Attorney Ron Filipkowski, a Republican turned Democrat, slammed Jordan’s remarks.

“This makes literally no sense whatsoever. Local police are funded locally. Democrats aren’t seeking to haul local prosecutors in front of Congress for anything. This is a naked abuse of federal power over something Congress has no jurisdiction over.”

Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, now an NBC News and MSNBC Legal Analyst, called Jordan’s and Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s actions “a dramatic and transparent abuse of power.”

READ MORE: Republicans Are ‘Obstructing Justice’ and ‘Becoming Accessories’ to Trump’s ‘Crimes’: Former Prosecutor

Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) called Jordan’s letter, “stupid and embarrassing” three times, and, called Jordan’s attempt at oversight of a county DA “is invalid, unconstitutional, inappropriate, stupidly pretextual and political.”

District Attorney Bragg, Fritscher continued, “will be on rock solid legal ground if he should decide to use their letter to kill insects or remove avian waste, but in the meantime we who have seen and written legitimate oversight letters in the past imo should mock Jordan, Comer et al for their hilarious incompetence.”

Others on Capitol Hill also mocked Jordan.

“A kangaroo investigation has been opened by Jim Jordan and the House GOP into the Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg,” U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) tweeted. “Republicans complaining about the weaponization of government is like Al Capone complaining about organized crime.”

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Trump’s Lawyer in Stormy Daniels Case Back in 2018 Called Hush Money Payoff ‘Illegal’: Report



Joe Tacopina, billed as a “powerhouse attorney” and “one of the country’s top trial attorneys” when Donald Trump hired him in January to sue a former prosecutor, back in 2018 weighed in on Trump’s $130,000 hush money payoff to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, calling the payment “illegal,” and “a potential campaign finance issue.”

According to a March 15, 2018 CNN transcript, and video (below) unearthed by Twitter user Acyn, Tacopina said the $130,000 hush money payoff to Stormy Daniels is “fair game” for prosecutors.

Tacopina told host Don Lemon,”if there is an issue with that payment to Stormy Daniels being — that it was made on behalf of the candidate, OK, and it was not declared, that is fair game, unfortunately, if that is the case.”

READ MORE: ‘All-Out War’: Trump’s Attorney Tells Kimberly Guilfoyle Ex-President Will Be ‘Loud and Proud’ When Showing Up for Indictment

He went on to discredit the defense some now appear to be making, at least in the court of public opinion, that Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels on his own, without Trump knowing.

“And you know, quite frankly, you know, Michael Cohen, again has made statements that would give rise to suspicion for any prosecutor to say, that doesn’t make sense that a lawyer took out a home equity loan with his own money, paid somebody that he didn’t even know on behalf of a client who, by the way, had the where with all the money to afford $130,000, and by the way, didn’t tell the client about the settlement agreement,” Tacopina said. “It’s an illegal agreement. It’s a fraud. If that’s in fact is the case, it doesn’t make sense,” he added.

“Doesn’t pass the straight face test. And quite frankly, if that is what happened we have a potential campaign finance issue.”

Less than two months later, in May of 2018, NPR reported Trump admitted to authorizing the payoff.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake Tuesday morning adds: “Per a CNN transcript, now-Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina in 2018 said the Stormy Daniels hush-money payment was ‘illegal, by the way.'”

READ MORE: Republicans Are ‘Obstructing Justice’ and ‘Becoming Accessories’ to Trump’s ‘Crimes’: Former Prosecutor

Trump is expected to be indicted this week or next, on what some experts believe could be charges related to falsification of business records and campaign finance related issues.

Watch the videos and see the transcript above or at this link.

Image via Shutterstock

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Powerful GOP Committee Chair Admits He Can’t Control Marjorie Taylor Greene



Rep. James Comer (R-KY), who’s leading Republican investigations into President Joe Biden and his family, compared firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to NBA superstar Lebron James.

The Kentucky Republican chairs the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, where he’s been tasked by GOP leadership and his constituents to investigate wild claims about the president, his son Hunter Biden and other Democrats, reported the New York Times.

“You know, the customer’s always right,” Comer said, referring to the conspiracy theories presented to him by constituents. “I say, ‘Let me see it,’ because I want to see where the source is. They don’t know that it’s QAnon, but it’s QAnon stuff.”

Greene, one of the Republicans who serves on his committee, has expressed support for QAnon conspiracies herself, but Comer admitted that he had little authority to rein in the influence she holds within the GOP caucus after a little more than two years in Congress.

DON’T MISS: C-SPAN caller blows off Trump’s Stormy Daniels payment: ‘He’s our salvation!’

“It’s hard for a coach to tell LeBron James what he’s doing wrong,” Comer said.

In addition to her history of spouting QAnon conspiracy theories, Greene has also questioned whether the Pentagon was really attacked during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has called multiple school shootings “false flag” operations staged by the American government, and has even suggested that the Rothschild family is funding giant space lasers that are starting forest fires in California.

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