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Update: Ken Paxton could be held in contempt for refusing to grant same-sex death certificate

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Update at 3 p.m.: Not only has U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ordered Texas officials to amend James Stone-Hoskins’ death certificate to list John as his husband, but the judge also ordered Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Kirk Cole, interim Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, to appear in his courtroom next week so he can decide whether they should be held in contempt for refusing to follow the law.

“The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether Defendants should be held in contempt for disobedience of this Court’s July 7, 2015 order, permanently enjoining Defendants from enforcing any Texas’s laws that prohibit or fail to recognize same-sex marriage,” he writes in the order below. “The parties may submit written pleadings and responses in relation to the motion for contempt, and for this Court’s consideration, no later than Monday August 10, 2015.”

It has been quite a week for the state’s top law enforcement officer.

Ken Paxton (File photo)

Attorney Neel Lane, of course, could not be more thrilled with today’s outcome.

“Our client John Stone-Hoskins is delighted that the State of Texas must now recognize his marriage to his late husband as valid,” he says. “Like many other gay and lesbian citizens, John and his late husband James were denied the respect and dignity they were entitled to under the Constitution. Judge Orlando Garcia immediately recognized the injustice of the State’s actions in refusing to amend James’ death certificate, and we are grateful that he took swift action.”

Original post at 11:59 a.m.: John Allen Stone-Hoskins, a former Texas police officer who now lives in Conroe, estimates he has but days left to live. The reasons are myriad: “I have a terminal liver disease, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, breast disease, a heart defect, in addition to a defective aorta, which was not discovered until recently,” he says in court documents filed today. “My doctors expect me to live another 45 to 60 days.”

Stone-Hoskins wants to use his remaining days to get his estate in order.

But that is impossible task, he says, thanks to the state of Texas, which refuses to change the death certificate of Stone-Hoskins’ husband James, who, after being diagnosed with a genetic autoimmune disease, took his life in in January and did not leave a will. Though the two men were married legally in New Mexico in 2014, James’ Texas death certificate still says “single” and lists John only as “significant other.” The state of Texas — specifically, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office — refuses to change it following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage at the end of June.

James, left, and John Stone-Hoskins

Which is why John Stone-Hoskins’ Dallas- and San Antonio-based attorneys went to federal court in the Alamo City this morning — to intervene in the lawsuit where, in February 2014. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas’ ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Akin Gump’s Neel Lane, the lead attorney, explains the filing this way: “On James’ death certificate, there is a blank where John’s name should be listed as his surviving spouse. The state of Texas denied them dignity and respect in life and now in death. The refusal to amend James’ death certificate is unconstitutional and is clearly in contempt of Judge Garcia’s order in DeLeon .”

Lane is working with Dallas’ Andrew Newman, who adds, “We hope this process plays out quickly to give John the dignity his marriage deserves.”

This is how John puts it in the emergency motion: “In preparation for my impending death, I wish to properly plan for the passing of my estate when I die, but have thus far been unable to do so as a result of the State of Texas’s refusal to correct James’s death certificate and recognize me as his spouse and that we were legally married. I also wish to have the dignity of being listed on my deceased husband’s death certificate.”

You can read the filing below in advance of a press conference scheduled this afternoon.

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