Transgender San Antonio Father Still Fighting for Rights in Texas Appellate Courts as Fourth Court of Appeals Issues New Opinion

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Over two years later, The Whitley Law Firm, P.C., on behalf of transgender father still fighting for the right to see his children, takes case to Texas Supreme Court

On January 27, 2016, the Fourth Court of Appeals issued a new opinion in a case involving a transgender father, Dino Villarreal, and his plight to have the right to see his two children. The new opinion was issued to replace the original opinion issued on August 12, 2015. The case is currently pending before the Texas Supreme Court.

Both opinions concluded that Dino lacked standing to seek child custody and visitation rights.

On this same date, the full panel of the Fourth Court of Appeals denied a Motion for En Banc Reconsideration of the prior decision. Three Justices who were not on the original three-justice panel wrote separate opinions, with Justice Rebecca Martinez, and Justice Luz Elena Chapa dissenting, and Justice Alvarez concurring.

Dino Villarreal is a transgender man seeking to adjudicate paternity in a case of first impression. According to his appellate brief, Villarreal alleges he raised his two sons, along with their mother, Sandra Sandoval, from the time they were infants, until the children were 11 and 9 years old, respectively. When the romantic relationship between Villarreal and Sandoval ended, Sandoval allegedly denied Villarreal any right to continue in his role as the children’s father.

Villarreal alleges he has now not seen his children since December 24, 2013, other than a one-week period of possession granted by District Court Judge Gloria Saldana, whose order is now the subject of the pending appeal. Villarreal is transgender. This fact was allegedly known to Sandoval when she allowed the father-son bond to form over the lifetime of each child, according to the brief filed by Villarreal.

The 4th COA is split on this landmark legal issue. Justice Chapa dissented, arguing the panel should have denied the Petition for Writ of Mandamus.Justice Chapa argued that procedurally, the panel should not have granted the relief requested.

Justice Rebecca Martinez dissenting opinion focused on Dino Villarreal’s right to bring his lawsuit. Justice Martinez argued that Dino asked for 'equal dignity' in the eyes of the law, and that both the Constitution and the trial court granted him that right.

Justice Martinez concluded that Dino is a male as a matter of law.

Dino’s case is currently pending before the Texas Supreme Court in Case No. 15-0483, where he has asked for the Court to review the decision by the Fourth Court of Appeals.

The Whitley Law Firm, P.C., is comprised of attorneys Deanna L. Whitley and Shellie R. Reyes. Their practice area focuses on family law and appellate law, including an emphasis on same-sex legal issues, and other issues faced by the LGBT community in the greater San Antonio area.

For more information about The Whitley Law Firm, P.C., or for continuous updates regarding the case, visit http://www.whitleylawfirmpc.com. Photos available upon request.

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Shellie Reyes
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