Some Religious Right operatives have said they would rather go to jail than accept marriage equality in the states. Although Texas’ attorney general has not yet made so bold a statement, he may nonetheless spend some time behind bars for his refusal to cooperate with the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision.
Yesterday, a federal judge said Texas has no choice but to recognize the marriage of a man whose husband is now deceased. This matter ended up in court because the state refused to name the surviving spouse, John Stone-Hoskins, on the dead man’s death certificate.
In his lawsuit, Stone-Hoskins named both Paxton and Kirk Cole, interim commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, as defendants. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia is none too pleased with that duo and he has ordered them to return to his court next week to decide if they should be held in contempt for resisting the death certificate change.
It’s no surprise that Paxton landed in hot water given his previous attempts to derail marriage equality in Texas. Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, Paxton issued a memo telling clerks that they may have a “religious freedom” right to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This had the predictable effect of leading multiple officials to discriminate against gay couples.
Paxton’s contempt charge is just the latest chapter in his summer of discontent. On Monday, he turned himself in after a grand jury indicted him on three felony charges: two for securities fraud and one count of acting as an unregistered investment advisor. He posted a $35,000 bond and plans to plead not guilty.
The Texas Tribune reported that Paxton allegedly encouraged two men to purchase more than $100,000 worth of stock in a technology company without telling the prospective buyers that the corporation had paid him. One of the alleged victims is state Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana).
The case also alleges that Paxton did not explain to the buyers that the shares he owned in the company were given to him as payment for services and not the result of his decision to invest in the corporation.
It is difficult to say at this point how Paxton’s legal troubles will play out, but he’s quickly learning that there are consequences for those who refuse to obey the law. Since he is Texas’ most powerful attorney, he probably should have been aware of that already.
The bottom line is that Paxton’s attempts to resist marriage equality are proving futile. His efforts to pander to the Religious Right were foolish, and now he must lie in the bed he made. It just so happens that bed could be inside a prison cell.