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Florida court wanders into transsexual swamp
by Gene Owens



Michael Kantaras of Holiday, Fla., wants to be a man, but Florida courts so far have ruled that he/she is legally a woman because she was born that way.

Margo Kantaras was born female and didn't like it. So, trying to second-guess God, she underwent a transsexual operation in 1987. At the age of 28, Margo became Michael. Two years later, he/she married Linda, who knew all about the sex change. They divorced in 1998.

Now Florida courts have ruled that Michael is really a woman, and always has been. Therefore, the marriage was invalid because it was between people of the same sex.

If the couple have divorced, why does it matter?

Well, Michael/Margo adopted Linda's child shortly after its birth and was the legal father of her younger son, conceived through artificial insemination with sperm donated by Michael/Margo's brother.

In 2003, a local court awarded the "father" custody of the children, citing Linda's anger problems and her violation of court orders relating to Michael/Margo's visitation rights.

Now a Florida state appeals court has overturned that decision.

Until the law is changed, it ruled, "We must invalidate any marriage that is not between persons of the opposite sex determined by their biological sex at birth."

Florida does not recognize same-sex marriage, and the court holds that Michael/Margo and Linda are both female and always have been. And since Michael/Margo is not a man, he/she can't be the father of the two children.

Therefore, Michael/Margo could lose custody of the kids, despite Linda's anger fits and violation of court orders.

Does all this leave your head spinning? It does mine.

Is Michael/Margo really a man, biologically speaking?

Karen Doering, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, maintains that the court "ignored the unrefuted medical evidence that Michael is a male."

But the fact that he/she cannot be a biological father argues that the sex change was not complete. In fact, transsexual operations, as I understand them, are simply procedures that change the superficial physical indicators of sexual identity to conform with the person's psychological sexual identity. If Margo wanted to be a man, the procedure could make her look like a man, and perhaps feel like a man and act like a man. But it could not equip her with the organs that, fully functioning, would enable her to father a child. And that is the biological role for which the male sex was designed.

But lawyers can make distinctions between biological reality and legal reality, and legislatures have the authority to write their own definitions of male and female.

The state of Florida has taken a belated interest in Michael/Margo's sexual identity, and the interest seems to center not so much on what's best for the kids as on what constitutes a marriage.

The state of Florida recognized that Michael/Margo and Linda were whatever and wife up until the time of the custody decision. Both partners ordered their lives on that assumption. Now the state is saying that it was wrong; it never should have recognized the arrangement as a marriage.

All this tells me that science is advancing much faster than the law and human nature can accommodate to the change and that the law should avoid setting its foot firmly on murky ground.

Transsexual operations blur the distinctions between the sexes and open the possibility that a person who has undergone a sex change might marry without cutting the other party in on the secret.

Must we now add to the red tape of marriage a test to determine whether the partners really are male or female?

Opponents of same-sex marriage are hailing the Florida court decision as a victory for traditional marriage.

It seems to me that dragging the same-sex issue into this spat only makes the situation messier.

Had Michael/Margo been born a Michael, and had he married the temperamental Linda, the issue would still be the same: which partner, if either, could provide the best home for the children.

God may not approve of transsexual operations or of same-sex marriages. But God didn't appoint the state of Florida to interpret or to enforce his laws. The interpretation should be up to those who choose to live by the Bible, and the enforcement should be up to God. He can deal with transgressions in his own way. I'm not sure the state has a dog in that fight.

In the bewildering job of keeping pace with scientific "progress," the law should determine where the public's valid interests lie and protect those interests, with minimum infringement on private rights.

While I happen to believe that homosexual conduct runs directly counter to biblical instruction, I also believe that God doesn't need political governments to enforce it. Churches should turn to the task of inculcating morality instead of demanding that government legislate it.

And they might consider that the greatest threat to the American family is not posed by the homosexual couple who wants to live together under a binding contract; it comes from heterosexual couples who choose to live and procreate together without one.

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Gene Owens has been around the Southern journalistic scene for 48 years. He has been senior associate editor of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and editorial-page editor of the Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Va.

As senior editor for Creative Services, a management consulting firm in High Point, N. C., he ghosted more than a dozen published books for professional clients. For the past nine years he has been assistant managing editor, political editor and columnist for the Mobile Register. Register readers last year named him their favorite local columnist, and readers of the independent regional magazine, Bay Weekly, agreed. He was runner-up in the regional Green Eyeshades competition among writers of humor columns.

He has been on the board of directors of the National Conference of Editorial Writers and was editor of The Masthead, the NCEW’s national quarterly. He recently went into semi-retirement in Anderson, S. C.


Read more of Gene's entertaining columns:
A Tribute to Johnny Cash
Roy Moore at the Courthouse Door
All about Gene and Greasepit Grammar
Greasepit Grammar: Misplaced modifiers
Greasepit Grammar: Inertia can get you
Greasepit Grammar: Drinking and dranking
The Wal-Mart Paradox
Taking a week off from retirement to do nothing
Insulation reduces mouse mortality rate
Flocking South with the snowbirds
Juicy Fruit will gum up the mole works

Write Gene Owens at 1004 Cobbs Glen Drive, Anderson SC 29621 or e-mail him at genepegg@bellsouth.net
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