Archive for Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Judge set to hear case over marriage

April 28, 2004

Leavenworth County District Judge Frederick Stewart denied Sandy Gast's request for a jury trial last Wednesday, but he did knock down Gast's bond from $2,500.

"I don't mind reducing bond to $100," Stewart said.

Gast, a man in transition to be a woman, was arrested for making a false swearing on a marriage license application last month after the daughter of Gast's partner informed authorities that the couple was attempting to wed. Gast's partner, Georgi Somers, is a man living as a woman.

Stewart said he denied the jury trial because the misdemeanor charge would not include any jail time if Gast were found guilty. He also said it would be a waste of judicial resources.

Last September, Gast's name was changed from Edward Francis Gast to Sandy Clarissa Gast. Gast's birth certificate and driver's license were changed. Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray, who is representing Gast, had asked that his client not be referred to as Edward, and the judge agreed.

During a previous hearing, Irigonegaray was upset that county attorney Frank Kohl referred to his client as Mr. Gast. Irigonegaray presented the court with documents from last September in which Gast's name was legally changed in Wyandotte County. Stewart said the court recognized that as a legitimate name change, but under Kansas statute, the gender had not changed.

After Irigonegaray made arguments regarding how Kohl should address his client, Kohl said never had he been in a courtroom in which one lawyer dictated how another lawyer conducted themselves "as long as it was done in a legal manner and not in contempt of court."

Kohl also presented an argument referring to a 2002 Supreme Court decision regarding the estate of Leavenworth's Marshall Gardiner and J'Noel Gardiner. Gardiner died of a heart attack, but had no will. He was married to J'Noel, who had had surgery to become a woman. The transition and gender change was recognized in her home state of Wisconsin, but not in Kansas and the marriage was ruled as void.

No date for the trial before Stewart has been set. Irigonegaray, who was hired by the American Civil Liberties Union to represent Gast, asked that it be scheduled for July or August. He said he likely would need three days to present his case.

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