Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was indicted this week on securities fraud charges, has been summoned to court next week by a federal judge to answer for the state’s alleged refusal to recognize all same-sex marriages.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio issued the order after reviewing a complaint by a gay man who says he can’t get Texas to amend his spouse’s death certificate to reflect him as the surviving spouse.
Garcia ordered Paxton, a Republican, and Kirk Cole, the Texas Department of State Health Services’ interim commissioner, to appear so he can determine whether they should be held in contempt for disobeying his July 7 order permanently blocking them “from enforcing any Texas laws that prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage.”
John Stone-Hoskins, a former Texas police officer, died in January, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling legalizing same-sex marriages in all 50 states. He and James Stone-Hoskins were legally married last year in New Mexico, which recognizes same-sex marriages.
James has repeatedly petitioned the state to amend John’s death certificate, which lists the deceased’s status as single, in the wake of the high court ruling, according to his complaint. The state has refused, saying it isn’t required to recognize gay marriages retroactively.
The Texas gay-marriage challenge was “centered on the right to marry,” Cynthia Meyer, Paxton’s spokeswoman, said Wednesday in an e-mail. Whether the Supreme Court’s same-sex-marriage ruling is “retroactive is a complex legal question that must be resolved in a separate case, and is a separate issue from the one addressed” in the Texas case, she said.
Meyer said the state would respond to the judge’s order in court.
Paxton, who faces charges tied to business dealings before he was elected attorney general, drew national attention this year for his stance opposing gay marriage. Immediately after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Paxton advised Texas county clerks they could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if doing so violated their religious convictions, although he also suggested the clerks assign those duties to colleagues without objections.
The case is DeLeon v. Abbott, 5:13-982, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio).