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Court upholds gay widower’s right to be named on husband’s death certificate

Nick Duffy March 24, 2017

A man who tragically lost his husband while same-sex marriage was still banned has been granted the right to be named on his death certificate.

Paul Mocko and Greg Patterson, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had lived together for 26 years before they travelled to San Francisco to get married in April 2014.

Tragically, Mr Patterson died just months after their wedding, after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Because same-sex marriage was constitutionally banned in Florida at the time, on his Florida state death certificate Mr Patterson was listed as unmarried, and Mr Mocko was not listed as his spouse.

But after waging a legal battle with help from Lambda Legal, this week Mr Mocko helped bring about a victorythat grants surviving same-sex partners the right to be named on their spouse’s death certificate.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that the state must issue accurate death certificates to all surviving same-sex spouses, granting them the dignity that Paul and Greg were denied.

Mr Mocko was joined in the case by Hal Birchfield, who lost his partner of 40 years, James Merrick Smith, in 2013.traveled to New York in October 2012 and got married.

The pair had married in New York in October 2012, but Mr Birchfield was also blocked from being listed on his husband’s Florida death certificate.

Mr Birchfield said: “The state of Florida discriminated against us and disrespected our relationship in life and even in James’ death, but this decision will ensure that I and all the other surviving same-sex spouses will finally have accurate death certificates that honor our relationships.”



Hal Birchfield and James Merrick Smith
Karen Loewy, Counsel for Lambda Legal, said: “We are thrilled that the Court has put an end to the way the State of Florida was erasing whole lives spent together when it refused to issue corrected death certificates recognizing married same-sex couples unless the surviving spouse obtained a court order.

“Hal and Paul and other Florida widows and widowers like them suffered at the hands of the state all because their spouses died before the state’s marriage ban was struck down.

“These surviving same-sex spouses should never have been forced to bear the burden of the state’s discrimination, but that discrimination ends today.

“Hal, Paul and other surviving same-sex spouses in Florida can’t get their loved ones back, but now all Florida surviving same-sex spouses will have the respect and dignity of accurate death certificates that recognize their relationships.”

More: certificate, death, Florida, Gay, Law, US, widower

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