January 23, 2022

Contempt hearing postponed, same-sex families will get to amend birth, death certificates

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Daniel McNeel "Neel" Lane Jr., a partner in the San Antonio office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Daniel McNeel “Neel” Lane Jr., a partner in the San Antonio office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

By Miriam Rozen, From Texas Lawyer

Texas officials have complied with a federal court order and amended the death certificate of a man who was married to another man to identify the surviving spouse.

The state officials have also pledged to send the surviving spouse’s lawyer proposed policy changes by Aug. 14. Those policy changes are expected to allow same-sex families statewide to amend death and birth certificates. The proposed new policies are expected to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision issued in June allowing for recognition nationwide of same-sex marriage.

As a result of the state officials’ actions and promises, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of the Western District of Texas in San Antonio postponed a contempt hearing for state officials, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, until Sept. 10.

Previously, Garcia had scheduled the contempt hearing for Aug. 12. Garcia scheduled that hearing after he issued an order requiring the Department of State Health Services to immediately issue the amended death certificate for Conroe resident John Allen Stone-Hoskins’ same-sex spouse.

Garcia issued that order after Stone-Hoskins filed an emergency motion to intervene in a same-sex marriage case, DeLeon v. Abbott.

In DeLeon, same-sex marriage advocates prevailed against the state after the U.S. Supreme Court issued in June its Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry and barred Texas’ gay marriage ban.

Stone-Hoskins’ emergency motion asked the court to order state officials to amend his spouse’s death certificate and to issue a contempt order against state and county officials in their official capacity for refusing to do so.

Neel Lane, a lawyer who prevailed for same-sex marriage plaintiffs in DeLeon, represents Stone-Hoskins. Lane, a partner in the San Antonio office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said Garcia postponed the contempt hearing after state officials agreed during an Aug. 10 phone conference to issue the amended death certificate and to develop a policy allowing for amended death and birth certificates for other same-sex couples’ families.

Lane expects state officials, including representatives of the Department of State Health Services and Paxton’s office, to send the proposed new policies by Aug. 14.

Lane then plans to seek help from family law practitioners to review those proposals.

Lane said he hopes that “there will be full compliance and it will be unnecessary to have a contempt hearing.”

Cynthia Meyer, a spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General, referred all questions for this story to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for that department, sent an emailed statement, which said: “DSHS is finalizing a policy relating to the issuance of certain vital records that will be completed within the next two days. We will work as quickly as possible to implement that policy. It will require communication with local registrars and facilities, changes to our processes and programming updates to the electronic vital records system.”

Prior to a telephone court hearing on Aug. 10, OAG spokeswoman Meyer had emailed on Aug. 5 a statement that said: “The DeLeon case centered on the right to marry. Whether Obergefell is retroactive is a complex legal question that must be resolved in a separate case, and is a separate issue from what was addressed in DLeon.”

IMAGE: Daniel McNeel ‘Neel’ Lane Jr., a partner in the San Antonio office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

For more on this story go to: http://www.texaslawyer.com/id=1202734477513/Contempt-Hearing-Postponed-SameSex-Families-Will-Get-to-Amend-Birth-Death-Certificates#ixzz3ieopPoUP

 

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