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Appeals court rules in gender identity case

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's law banning same-sex marriage cannot be used to invalidate a marriage if one spouse later changes his or her gender identity, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.

The ruling handed down Friday stems from a divorce case involving David Paul Summers and Angela Summers, who married in southern Indiana's Brown County on Oct. 30, 1999.

At some point during the couple's marriage, David Summers was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a disorder where a person's gender at birth is different than the gender the person identifies with, according to court records.

Summers legally changed his name to Melanie Davis in 2005. Three years later, a Marion County judge ordered the gender designation on Davis' birth certificate changed to "female" from "male," to conform with Davis' gender identity, legal name and appearance.

Davis and Angela Summers separated in 2008, and Davis filed for divorce in 2012.

Summers did not contest the divorce, and the couple reached a provisional order that granted custody of their child to Davis and required Summers pay child support.

However, The Times of Munster reports that Monroe Circuit Judge Valeri Haughton rejected the divorce petition. Haughton ruled that the marriage was automatically invalidated when Davis' birth certificate was changed, resulting in the union of two women.

Haughton said she could not dissolve a marriage that isn't a legal marriage because it is already void under Indiana law.

But in Friday's 3-0 decision, the appeals court overturned Haughton's finding, finding that Davis and Summers' marriage remains valid.

The court ruled the marriage must be dissolved through traditional means because at the time of their wedding Davis and Summers fully complied with Indiana's marriage law, which reads, "Only a female may marry a male. Only a male may marry a female."

Appeals Judge Paul Mathias said Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage does not apply in this case because Davis and Summers did not enter into a same-sex marriage. He also said there is no state provision that voids a legal marriage simply because one of the parties in that marriage changes his or her gender.