Chicago Sun Times, August 15, 2003
401 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60611
(Fax: 312-321-2120 ) (E-Mail: Letters@suntimes.com )
( http://www.suntimes.com )
Breakup's stumbling block: Is wife a woman?
By Janet Rausa Fuller, Staff Reporter
Lisa Fink just wants to be treated like any other spouse facing a divorce.
But this is not your garden variety divorce. Fink is a transgender female.
Fink, 49, is fighting her husband, Chicago orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Fink, in court to get money, property and other benefits she says she deserves if the two split.
And now, Robert Fink, 49, is suing Cook County Clerk David Orr to get their marriage license revoked, saying the 1986 marriage was a "sham" from the start because Lisa is and always has been a man. Illinois does not recognize same-sex unions.
"He's in a marriage but the law doesn't recognize it at all," Robert Fink's attorney Stephen Komie said. "The clerk has no choice in my personal opinion than to do what is required by law."
Lisa Fink's attorney, Todd A. Walters, argues that though his client was born a man, she is very much a woman, having undergone surgery before and after the marriage to remove male genitalia and add female genitalia.
Thus, she has the same rights as any other woman in her position, Walters says.
"There's no question," Walters said. "Lisa's entitled to get money. Lisa's entitled to get a piece of the properties that had been purchased during the marriage. Lisa's entitled to get health insurance coverage, like any other spouse.
"She had the life of not only a surgeon's wife, but a homemaker. That's what she was."
How did they get to the altar in the first place?
Lisa Fink, who was born Edward Jude Baldenegro, dressed and acted like a girl from the time she was 4, Walters says.
After meeting Robert Fink in 1985, she had her name changed to Lisa Marie Baldenegro.
According to court records, Robert Fink took the next step by performing a procedure to remove Lisa's testicles.
That apparently cleared the way for Lisa to get a new birth certificate and driver's license and for the couple to get a marriage license on Valentine's Day in 1986.
Lisa Fink eventually underwent full sexual reassignment surgery and hormone therapy and got breast implants, Walters said.
Robert Fink filed for divorce in the fall of 1986 but dropped the case in 1989.
In 1998, he filed a petition for declaration of invalidity of marriage. That case is set for trial in January before Judge Nancy Katz.
Walters says Robert Fink is just trying to get out of paying alimony with his newest complaint filed last week against Orr.
Scott Burnham, spokesman for the Cook County Clerk's office, said the office doesn't have the authority or the power to revoke any marriage.
"That's something for the courts to decide," Burnham said.
Robert Fink's attorney, Redina Friedman, was out of town and unreachable for comment.
In another court case earlier this year involving a transgender male, Cook County Judge Gerald Bender denied custody of a child to the man, saying that he had no legal standing to seek custody because "he" was actually a woman. The "man" took hormone therapy and dressed like a man after the marriage but still had female anatomy, Bender said.
Richard Wilson, a Chicago attorney specializing in divorce, domestic partnerships and same-sex issues, said the Fink case presents similarly complex issues because the law against same-sex marriage doesn't define what male or female is.
It doesn't help that Robert Fink not only knew he was marrying a man, but performed the castration surgery himself, Wilson said.
"It's unprecedented to the extent that somebody like him is now using [gender] as a sword when he lived by it as a shield," Wilson said.
Walters said there is more at stake than just money for his client, Lisa Fink, who is a recovering drug addict and has a rap sheet that includes arrests for drug possession and theft.
"She has always lived life as a female. If this marriage is invalidated, who then would Lisa be?" Walters wondered. "This is about who she is. This is about her being a full person."
There are two cases that might impact the pending decision, if cool heads pervail. First is the Richards case - Richards v United States Tennis - Assn. (93 Misc 2d 713 [Sup Ct, NY County 1977]).
and second MT v JT 355 A2d 204 (NJ Super 1976).
Unfortunately, since these two cases, there have been some rather devastating decisions.
Unfortunately, with the group of sociopaths in Washington, pressuring our judicial system to hand down conservative faith-based decisions, the situation doesn't look too promising.
This information is inaccurate and we will take legal action to have the post removed. The doctor paid half of his income and now this organically affects his business and much data from this article is inaccurate and neither party want this to be posted online. Both bob and Lisa will be contacting you legally if this article is not removed. It's over 10 years old and irrelevant defamation of character is one of many charges we are looking to pursue if this is not removed. Please and thanks. If both parties settled everything then why does their past still matter to your forum site. Our lawyer advised to ask you nicely and even offer a small fee ($50) to have this permanently removed from your database
Otherwise we will be contacting my evanense and sun times directly. Both parties worked out their differences and this article is discriminating lisa from being able to move on with a normal life and we feel that the article is opinionated, vaguely accurate, and very demeaning not to mention (sexist) and discriminatory towards transgenders. Thanks please remove or contact me directly asap. Thanks again
I would never have been aware of this post if you hadn't brought attention to it, it would just sit unread in bytes of history. I think you need to examine your methods of addressing the removal of this story, because this way will only increase exposure.
> This information is inaccurate and we will take legal action to have the post removed.
> Both bob and Lisa will be contacting you legally if this article is not removed.
> this article is discriminating lisa from being able to move on with a normal life and we feel that the article is opinionated, vaguely accurate, and very demeaning not to mention (sexist) and discriminatory towards transgenders. Thanks please remove or contact me directly asap. Thanks again
(1) I do not respond well to threats.
(2) This article was posted in August 2003, nearly 12 (twelve) years ago.
I will not begin to speculate why anyone would have dug out an article posted here 12 (twelve) years ago
in order to make threats.
(3) If Lisa has not moved on with a normal life by now, twelve years later,
any and all accusations of "demeaning", "sexist" and especially of being "discriminatory towards transgenders"
are all baseless and libelous, especially given my work over the past three decades on behalf of the people of the TG/TS community.
Please note once again, that this is a twelve year old post,
with only one followup comment.
Given that it was a written by a Chicago Sun Time reporter twelve years ago,
it has historical significance,
but only to people who think it somehow necessary to read twelve year old posts
> Our lawyer advised to ask you nicely and even offer a small fee ($50) to have this permanently removed from your database
Please have your attorney contact me in writing, on letterhead,
with any settlement offers.
R U kidding? This is an old article that was in the public domain via a Chicago newspaper. It was copied and pasted by the this site as being informational for that is what this site is all about. This site provides many topics for the TG community to consider when or if they transition and that post was just another tidbit for us to think about as we go forward. If the original article was false, why was it not challenged when it came out? In the same vein, why not go after Adolf Hitler for publishing "Mein Kampf" or anything else that was written in the past that might not be accurate?
And lastly, why did you not just contact the site directly instead of posting a public threat for the world to see? Something reeks here....