A federal judge has given Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton an August 24th deadline to make sure same-sex marriages are recognized on all birth and death certificates issued by the state.
“The issue in Texas has been that people went out of state to get married or they moved here from another state where they were already married, and then they were not treated the same as other couples,” attorney Jan Soifer said. “So if you were a same sex couple who moved here from another state and one of you died, you wouldn’t have a proper death certificate that recited that you were married.”
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ordered the state Tuesday night to change its policies and procedures to acknowledge same-sex couples on both certificates.
“This is a reminder to everybody, that nobody is above the law,” Soifer said, “and that the rule of law applies to the Texas Attorney General, just like it applies to all the rest of us.”
Bill Wallace of Austin said he is relieved to hear Judge Garcia’s order. Wallace has been fighting the state since 2013 when his partner of 43 years, Tom, passed away and the state refused to recognize their marriage on Tom’s death certificate.
“Tom was a soldier, he was a completely disabled veteran, a Purple Heart recipient,” Wallace said. “He served his country, and he deserves the recognition that comes from being married.”
Wallace said even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Texas still refused to acknowledge their marriage on Tom’s death certificate.
“It was another delaying tactic, another way to make people wait, make people frankly suffer,” Wallace said.
Wallace said his fight is now over, thanks to Judge Garcia’s order, and his late partner can now rest in peace.
“We were married, and we were a couple for 43 years,” Wallace said. “We deserve to have that recognized.”
Judge Garcia said if his order is not fulfilled by August 24th, Paxton will have to report to his San Antonio courtroom for violating the injunction.