SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may be held in contempt of court for refusing to issue a death certificate recognizing a dead man’s husband, in violation of a court order, a federal judge said Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia on Wednesday ordered Paxton and Texas Department of State Health Services Interim Commissioner Kirk Cole to appear before him next week.
“The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether defendants should be held in contempt for disobedience of this Court’s July 7, 2015 order, permanently enjoining defendants from enforcing any Texas’s laws that prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage,” the 2-page order states.
“The parties may submit written pleadings and responses in relation to the motion for contempt, and for this Court’s consideration, no later than Monday August 10, 2015.”
Garcia’s July 7 injunction came a week after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges struck down state bans on same-sex marriage nationwide.
Relying on that order , John Allen Stone-Hoskins, of Conroe, filed a motion to intervene and for contempt on Wednesday in a closely followed 2013 case that sought to strike down Texas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
“The need for relief is urgent. John is terminally ill,” the 8-page motion states. “Doctors estimate he has no more than 45 to 60 days to live. Before he received this grim prognosis, John was married to James Stone-Hoskins. James died intestate in January 2015. At the time of his death, defendants refused to list John as his surviving spouse on James’ death certificate because, although John and James had been lawfully married in New Mexico, they were both men. John filed all of the necessary paperwork to amend James’ death certificate to list John as his spouse after this Court lifted the stay of its preliminary injunction, and has repeatedly asked the state to amend the certificate on numerous occasions since. The relief John seeks has been routinely and promptly afforded surviving spouses of opposite-sex marriages.”
Stone-Hoskins wants the change to plan for the passing of his estate when he dies, and have his marriage recognized on James’ death certificate.
“John cannot do this, however, because defendants refuse to recognize John and James’s lawful out-of-state marriage and refuse to correct James’s death certificate,” the motion states . “Thus, defendants continue to prevent John from gaining title to James’s estate as his surviving spouse, and continue to deprive him the dignity guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Paxton could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Stone-Hoskins’ attorney, Neel Lane, with Akin Gump in San Antonio, said his client is “delighted” with the judge’s ruling.
“Like many other gay and lesbian citizens, John and his late husband James were denied the respect and dignity they were entitled to under the Constitution,” Lane told The Dallas Morning News. “Judge Orlando Garcia immediately recognized the injustice of the State’s actions in refusing to amend James’ death certificate, and we are grateful that he took swift action.”
Paxton has had a rough month. A criminal indictment charging him with three felony counts of securities violations was unsealed Monday in Collin County. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in state prison .
In July, Paxton was criticized for issuing a non-binding opinion on Obergefell that urged county clerks and judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses if doing so was against their religious beliefs.
In his letter to the judges and clerks of court, Paxton wrote that the Supreme Court “again ignored the text and spirit” of the Constitution by legalizing same-sex marriage and “manufacture[d] a right” that does not exist.
“In so doing, the Court weakened itself and weakened the rule of law, but did nothing to weaken our resolve to protect religious liberty and return to democratic self-government in the face of judicial activists attempting to tell us how to live,” he said at the time.
Paxton’s advice resulted in an ethics complaint being filed against him with the State Bar.
Paxton’s attorney has said a gag order on the felony securities charges prevents the attorney general from talking about that case.
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