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AG Paxton Avoids Contempt Hearing in Birth & Death Certificate Lawsuit

Marjorie Kamys Cotera
Texas Tribune
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

A contempt hearing set for next week against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been canceled.

Federal court Judge Orlando Garcia canceled the hearing, writing that Paxton and the other state officials— Governor Greg Abbott and interim Commissioner of the Texas State Department of Health and Human Services Kirk Cole — have complied with the court's Aug. 5 order to amend the death certificate of one member of a married same-sex couple and to issue state policy guidelines for recognizing legal same-sex marriages on birth and death certificates.

The hearing had been set for Sept. 10 but was conditional on the state's compliance with the order. And according to the court order released today, the AG's office notified the court on Aug. 10 that it had complied. The court asked that the AG's office to submit official advisories confirming its actions, and it did so later that month, prompting the judge to call off pending contempt charges.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that state bans on same-sex marriage (like the one in Texas) were unconstitutional, legalizing same-sex marriages in all 50 states and officially recognizing all past same-sex marriages from state to state.

A lawsuit was filed against Paxton on Aug. 5 by James Stone-Hoskins, on behalf of himself and his partner, John Allen Stone-Hoskins, who died in January. James wanted his partner's death certificate to note that they were married — the couple wed in New Mexico in 2014 — but as of that day it listed him as a 'significant other.'

Despite the federal court's June ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Paxton and state officials refused last month to change the label on Stone-Hoskins' husband's death certificate. He filed a lawsuit, and Judge Garcia ruled that officials should correct the death certificate and create policy guidelines for the state's issuing birth and death certificates for married same-sex couples and their children.

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