A trans woman in Tennessee has had her marriage declared invalid after the state refused to recognise her female status.
Terri Jo Rittenberry, 46, was born male but claims to have had gender reassignment surgery. She has a driver’s licence and a Kentucky birth certificate identifying her as female.
She is currently in jail on fraud and assault charges.
In the state’s eyes, her marriage to husband Jeffrey Scott Phillips, 33, is the first gay marriage in Tennessee as gender change, even after surgery, is not recognised.
However, the clinic where she claims to have had her operation in 2003 is denying the surgery took place.
“Why would they say I went there and didn’t go through with it?” Rittenberry said. “Why would I go there and not get an operation? I got a receipt from them and everything.”
In an interview with the Leaf Chronicle from jail, she said: “The marriage is real to me. I could care less about the system. I just wanted me and Jeff to be together. He wanted to marry me and I said ‘yes’.”
Kelly Farmer, director of communications at the Davidson County Clerk’s Office, said: “There are a few different identity [documents] you can present to be married, and one of those is a government-issued photo ID – a driver’s licence – and at the time Terri applied for his or her marriage licence, he presented his driver’s licence, which identified him as a woman.
“At that point in time, it’s not our responsibility to question is he really.”
The couple plan to marry in another state whether Rittenberry’s legal status as a woman will be recognised.
“It wasn’t anything planned to be deceptive,” Rittenberry said. “I’m not gay, and Jeff ain’t either.”
“Other transsexuals marry. I will go out of state and marry him somewhere else.”
Phillips said: “What does it say on her birth certificate? Female. There you go. To me, it’s real.”