Texas Buckles to Threat of Contempt Order

SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Texas officials issued a death certificate recognizing a dead man’s husband after a federal judge threatened to hold them in contempt of court for violating his order.
     John Allen Stone-Hoskins, of Conroe, asked the court Wednesday to hold Texas Attorney General Greg Paxton and Texas Department of State Health Services Interim Commissioner Kirk Cole in contempt for refusing to make the correction after U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia permanently enjoined the state on July 7 from enforcing state laws that ban or do not recognize gay marriage.
     Garcia’s order 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. Texas voters approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2005 that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.
     Garcia ordered Paxton and Cole to appear before him on Aug. 12 to face contempt of court charges, for refusing to change James’ status from “single” on his death certificate.
     One day later, DSHS issued an amendment to the death certificate of Stone-Hoskins’ deceased husband, James. They were married last year in New Mexico.
     “It now lists John Allen Stone-Hoskins V as his spouse,” the agency said in a statement. “The amended death certificate was issued this evening as ordered by the U.S. District Court and requested by John Stone-Hoskins.”
     Stone-Hoskins, who is dying, wanted the change made to plan for the passing of his estate, and to have his marriage recognized on James’ death certificate.
     “The need for relief is urgent. John is terminally ill,” his 8-page motion stated. “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.”
     Such changes are “routinely and promptly” given to surviving spouses of heterosexual married couples, the motion stated.
     “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 stated. “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.”
     Stone-Hoskins’ attorney, Neel Lane with Akin Gump in San Antonio, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. He told Bloomberg News he would oppose the defendants’ motion to cancel the contempt hearing.

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