Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, already facing fraud charges, has gotten himself embroiled in yet another ridiculous legal situation: a federal judge in San Antonio may hold him in contempt of court for refusing to recognize the legality of same-sex marriage.
While that’s hilarious, the case itself is tragic: John Allen Stone-Hoskins is trying update his husband James’s death certificate to reflect the fact that the two were married in New Mexico in 2014. James died in January; because Texas still banned same-sex marriage at the time, he was listed as “single,” although, according to the Texas Tribune, the two had been together for a decade.
Paxton’s office, as well as the Department of State Health Services, have refused to amend the certificate, saying they’re not sure whether the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage should apply retroactively. Paxton’s office told the Austin American Statesman that amending a death certificate is a “complex legal question” and they’re juuuuust not sure how long it’ll take. John’s attorneys, meanwhile, say that he is dying of terminal cancer and has weeks to live, and thus doesn’t really have time to get jerked around by Texas state officials.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia doesn’t see what’s so complicated about it. After John filed suit, he promptly issued a ruling telling state officials to just amend the damn death certificate. He also told Paxton and Kirk Cole, the Department of State Health Service’s interim commissioner, to appear in his courtroom to determine if he will hold them in contempt. Garcia had previously ordered Paxton on July 7 to stop enforcing any state laws that fail to recognize same-sex marriage.
It’s very unlikely that Paxton’s office is delaying because they’re working through this “complex legal question.” Much like when he urged county clerks to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of federal law, he’s probably just trying to be a dick. Mission accomplished. Paxton and Cole have been ordered to appear August 12.
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Paxton in Austin, August 1. Photo via AP Images