With Paxton Facing Contempt Charge, State Caves In Another Same-Sex Marriage Fight

Inch by inch, the state of Texas is being dragged into the United States' new reality, whether the state leadership likes it or not. Last Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was ordered to face a federal contempt charge for his office's role in, you guessed it, denying newly guaranteed rights to a legally married gay man. This time, with helpful guidance from Paxton, Kirk Cole, the interim commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, was refusing to amend the death certificate of James Stone-Hoskins.

Conroe's John Stone-Hoskins, James' husband, sought the death certificate change immediately after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June. When James died in January, his death certificate asserted that he was unmarried, and that John was his significant other. James was misnamed on the death certificate as well, as James Stone. So was John, as John Hoskins.

After a lengthy series of emails with the state bureaucracy, during which he was told that the state was still researching whether or not it was required to retroactively amend his husband's death certificate to reflect their now universally legal marriage, John has sought to have Paxton and Cole found to be in contempt of court. John is pushing the issue, he's said, because he has cancer and is dying.

Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ordered the death certificate amended immediately, and scheduled a August 12 contempt hearing for Paxton and Cole.

It took a further 24 hours, but James' death was finally amended by the state. John and his lawyer Neel Lane are not dropping their contempt claim, however, because, as Lane told the San Antonio Express News, they don't want the next person or couple needing a vital records change to have to take federal court action.

Friday, in a court filing, the state of Texas said Wednesday's upcoming contempt hearing should be canceled because "there is no clear and convincing evidence its officials violated a court order." On July 7, as part of housekeeping following the June Supreme Court decision, Garcia issued a ruling that bars any state official from enforcing a Texas laws that "prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage."

In a separate legal matter, Paxton is scheduled to make his first appearance on felony fraud charges related to his alleged encouragement of investors to put more than $600,000 into a McKinney-based technology company.
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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