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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 12, 2007

'I swear I am not transsexual'

Clark County requires marrying couples to take this oath

Springfield, Ohio--Couples seeking a marriage license in Clark County must swear they aren’t transsexual, even though many of them don’t even know what it means.

All Ohio marriage license applicants are required to swear an oath that they are sober, and that the application is true and accurate.

But Clark County, just east of Dayton, may be the only place in the nation that adds the part about not being transsexual.

This is because former Clark County probate judge David Mattes thought it should, after an opinion written 20 years ago by another Ohio probate judge.

Former Stark County probate judge R.R. Denny Clunk decided in 1987 that a male-to-female transsexual woman could not marry a non-transsexual man because chromosomes, not genitals, determine sex.

The current Clark County probate judge, Richard P. Carey, has kept the oath since he took the bench in 2002.

The oath reads: “Do you solemnly swear that you are not a transsexual, that you are not under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or controlled substance, are not nearer of kin than second cousins, that there is no legal impediment to your marriage, that you are not infected with syphilis in a form that is communicable or likely to become communicable, and that all the facts contained in this application are true to the best of your knowledge?”

Probate judges in Ohio have the authority to determine the marriage oath in their counties. Ironically, Clunk never required anyone in Stark County to swear they aren’t transsexual before getting a marriage license.

Clunk’s 1987 opinion, called In re: Ladrach, was one of the first decisions anywhere to address the issue of marriage and transsexuals. It is cited in cases all over the United States and the former British Commonwealth, usually against the couple marrying, although it had no legal weight when it was written.

Elaine Ladrach, who is now deceased, was a postoperative Canton woman who asked Clunk if she could marry her fiancé in Ohio.

Clunk’s ruling is known as declaratory judgment action, or advisory opinion only, since the couple never actually applied for a marriage license.

Clark County Deputy Clerk Sharon Weldy, who issues the licenses, was not available to comment for this report. However, she told the Springfield News-Sun that about three-quarters of the people she asks to take to oath don’t know what a transsexual is, or they think the mention of it is funny.

“I usually can get through it, but there are times when I have to stop in the middle because they’re laughing so hard,” Weldy told the News-Sun.

In a written message, Weldy told the Chronicle that the Clark County oath is “under review,” but would not elaborate.

In the Ladrach decision, both Elaine and her fiancé were considered male, and thus unable to marry.

Because of Ladrach, though, Ohio permits transsexuals to marry someone of the same sex, and many do.

It is not clear how such a matter would be handled in Clark County.

The matter also highlights a need for Ohio to change the law that now forbids transsexuals from correcting the sex marker on their birth certificates after surgery.

Only three states, Ohio, Idaho and Tennessee, prohibit birth certificate correction.

 

 

 

 

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