While no deadline has been set for Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue new guidelines to state employees about amending birth and death certificates, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia set a hearing for Sept. 10, meaning a contempt citation is still a possibility against the embattled politician.
Attorney Neel Lane said he expects to see something before then. Lane is the attorney for the two Texas marriage-equality-case couples. Earlier this month, he filed a motion in the case to force Texas to recognize a marriage for the purposes of a death certificate.
Texas had refused to issue the amended death certificate that would recognize the marriage of James and John Stone-Hoskins, so that John could inherit his husband’s estate. James died in January 2015. The couple was married in New Mexico a year ago.
Lane said John Stone-Hoskins asked for one amended death certificate, but when the state refused, he ended up winning that right for all same-sex couples in Texas who were married before the Obergefell marriage-equality decision as well as amended birth certificates that could affect thousands of couples and their children in Texas.
During the hearing, Garcia asked if there were any other departments that had not complied with his marriage-equality ruling. He said Garcia seemed anxious to make sure the state was complying in all areas.
Lane said that despite Paxton’s initial bluster encouraging county clerks with deeply held religious beliefs not to comply with Obergefell, the attorney general agreed to issue new guidelines pretty quickly when facing his own contempt of court hearing.
Once the guidelines are written, Lane said he’ll consult with a number of family law attorneys and Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton to make sure same-sex couples are treated the same as opposite-sex couples for purposes of issuing birth and death certificates.
“Under Texas law, the spouse is the presumed parent,” he said.
He said he presumed the guidelines will require the parents to be married at the time of the birth or adoption of the child to be considered the legal parent for purposes of the birth certificate, but he’ll make sure all married couples are treated equally.