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Judge rules against annulling marriage to transsexual

November 26, 1997

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) _ A judge has barred the annulment of a marriage between a woman and her transsexual husband, saying California law recognizes a person’s gender after a sex-change operation.

The ruling means the custody battle over the couple’s 3-year-old daughter will likely continue.

As part of the custody fight, Kristie Vecchione sought to annul her marriage to Joshua Vecchione, who was born female and had a sex change operation in 1976. She argued that state law does not recognize same-sex unions.

But Superior Judge Gary Ryan ruled Tuesday that because state law recognizes a person’s gender after a sex-change operation, the court recognizes Vecchione as a man.

``The post-operative anatomy of Mr. Vecchione is male except that he is sterile and unable to conceive children,″ the judge said.

The ruling means that the couple will likely proceed with a custody battle over their daughter, who was conceived by artificial insemination using sperm from Vecchione’s brother.

``I am thrilled by this decision. I feel like a person now,″ Vecchione said in a statement issued by his lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. ``The court recognizes today what my little girl has known all along: that I am her daddy.″

Larry Ross, a lawyer for Mrs. Vecchione, was not sure whether she would appeal.

Ross also had asked the judge to void the marriage because Mrs. Vecchione said she did not know her husband had been born female when they married. Mrs. Vecchione said he told her he had been born with genitalia of both genders, which she considered a congenital defect.

``There is still the viable issue whether Joshua misrepresented himself to Kristie,″ Ross said. The judge has not ruled on that issue.

Vecchione, who was born Janine, countered that he had always told his wife the truth and even explained the operations in detail.

The couple have been married just less than five years. If the marriage is annulled, Mrs. Vecchione will have custody of their daughter automatically, Ross said. Mrs. Vecchione is prepared to work out a visitation arrangement with her estranged husband.