Equality Comes to Texas Birth Certificates

The state of Texas' obstinacy about changing a Conroe man's death certificate continues to have positive consequences.

Last week it led to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the interim commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, Kirk Cole, being brought up on potential contempt charges. The state caved and issued a death certificate for James Stone-Hoskins, this time listing his husband, John Stone-Hoskins, as his spouse. That wasn't the end of things, however.

Through his attorney Neel Lane, John Stone-Hoskins kept the pressure on the state. The contempt claim was not going to dropped, Lane told the San Antonio Express News, because he didn't want same-sex couples to have to take legal action to get the vital documents to which they are entitled.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia agreed. Monday, he ordered the state to come up with a comprehensive plan to properly issue both death and birth certificates to same-sex spouses and parents by August 23. Surprisingly, in a move that surely had nothing to do with the looming contempt charges, the state issued its plan to make sure same-sex married Texans are taken care of on Wednesday.

The state will begin including same-sex spouses on death certificates, regardless of when or where the couple was married, immediately. A software update is needed before appropriate birth certificates can be issued, but that's going to happen, too. Also included in the state's new plan is something Dallas state Representative Rafael Anchia has spent much of his career fighting for, the right of same-sex adoptive parents to both be listed on their kids' supplemental birth certificates. Earlier this summer, we talked to him about why the birth certificate fix was so important to him.

“This is [an issue] that hits close to home for a lot of the families in the community that I live in, whether we’re talking about North Oak Cliff or the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs area, really all around Dallas. I find the statute so cruel because it ignores the needs of children and the loving families that they live in," he said. “Members will say that they’re pro-adoption and pro-family unless they don’t approve of the family."

Judge Garcia has made certain Texas' Republican leadership hasn't had much of a choice when it comes to how long it will drag its feet in the wake Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in late June. In addition to giving the state the August 23 deadline, he's also ordered that everyone who, like John Stone-Hoskins, has been waiting for amended records since June, be taken care of before September 10. That's the date for which Paxton and Cole's contempt of court hearing has been rescheduled.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young