AG Paxton no longer facing contempt hearing over gay rights

AG Paxton no longer facing contempt hearing over gay rights
Ken Paxton
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

AUSTIN, Texas — The possibility of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton being held in contempt of court for impeding gay rights diminished Monday after a lawyer said the state agreed to update vital records policies for same-sex couples.

Word of a resolution came only hours after Paxton told U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia — who had ordered Paxton to appear before him later this week — that no “high-ranking government official” should be compelled to personally show up in court barring extraordinary circumstances.

A contempt hearing in federal court would have been a highly visible moment for Paxton at a time when Texas’ new attorney general has kept a low profile since being indicted on securities fraud charges last month.

The dispute began last week when a gay Houston man, John Stone-Hoskins, said state health officials refused to amend the death certificate of his late husband. That led Garcia to order Paxton into his courtroom and explain why the state appeared to be in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage earlier this summer.

Neel Lane, an attorney for the surviving husband, said an agreement reached Monday should spare other Texas same-sex couples from similar hurdles. He said the Texas Department of State Health Services is now drafting policies for birth and death certificates for same-sex couples that should be finished this week.

“We’ve gotten what we set to get for John for all same-sex couples,” Lane said.

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