Texas officials amend death certificate to reflect gay union

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says a federal judge should not hold him in contempt over the state initially refusing, but ultimately agreeing, to reflect the marriage of a gay couple on a death certificate.

It is the latest conflict surrounding Paxton since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage earlier this summer. Critics have accused the Republican, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, of resisting the landmark ruling by advising county clerks in Texas that they could refuse marriage licenses to gay couples on religious grounds.

State health officials said late Thursday they complied with a court order to amend the death certificate of a Houston gay man's late husband. But that was not before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ordered Paxton to appear in court and explain why he shouldn't be held in contempt for enforcing state laws that impede gay marriage rights.

Paxton argued there is "no authority" for a constitutional officer to be held in contempt for providing legal advice to the Texas Department of State Health Services. He told the San Antonio court that he did not personally refuse to amend the death certificate, and only gave legal advice to state health officials.

"The request for an order holding the attorney general in contempt is particularly striking," Paxton's office told the court in a filing late Thursday.

John Stone-Hoskins of Conroe, whose husband died in January, said the death certificate initially listed him as a "significant other." The couple married last year in New Mexico. Stone-Hoskins argued that the Supreme Court decision means state records such as death certificates should recognize such unions.

But Paxton's office counters that Stone-Hoskins is pressing a separate issue of whether the state must retroactively amend death certificates that predate the Supreme Court decisions.

Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams said Friday she could not speculate how this case may affect similar requests in the future.