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Paxton gets a deadline

Better stick to it.

In an order late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia also instructed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office and the Texas Department of State Health Services to approve all pending applications for death and birth certificates involving married gay couples by that date.

The judge is holding both agencies to their word during a phone conference Monday that “the state and its agencies will be fully in compliance with (Garcia’s) final judgment that was issued on July 7th.”

[…]

The judge this week rescheduled a contempt hearing until Sept. 10, and it will take place if the state does not comply by Aug. 24.

See here, here, and here for the background. The Press, which profiles John Stone-haskins, the lead plaintiff in this action, fills in some details.

In a court hearing on Monday, Garcia noted that he kept getting the calls and emails and letters, all from people requesting the state recognize their marriages, too, according to Neel Lane, Stone-Hoskins’s attorney. (Lane is the same attorney who represented same-sex couples leading the legal fight against Texas’s gay marriage ban, which Garcia ruled unconstitutional; the Supreme Court took up the issue before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Lane’s case.)

So now, instead of every person fighting as Stone-Hoskins has, the state must draft a policy by August 24 that acknowledges same-sex couples’ rights to amend their certificates, a policy that will have to be approved by Lane. If the policy that the attorney general’s office drafts is satisfactory, Paxton’s contempt hearing, which was rescheduled for September 10, may be canceled.

“Once [Stone-Hoskins] got the death certificate and saw there were others who would be in the same position,” Lane says, “he didn’t want to leave them behind. He didn’t want to make the next person file suit. He committed himself to making sure that the state did something that would be more durable than just issue one death certificate and walk away.”

Good to know that Paxton’s surrender means this really is the end of the line, at least for this part of the fight. There will be a lot more things to fight about, at least until the losers are finally and truly marginalized. We’ll know for sure about this issue on August 24. The Trib has more.

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  1. […] here for the background. Nothing like a little contempt of court order to focus the mind and make clear […]