Federal Judge Orders Arizona to Issue Death Certificate Recognizing Deceased Man’s Husband

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September 12, 2014

A federal district court judge ordered the state of Arizona today to provide a death certificate that accurately reflects a recently deceased Green Valley man’s marriage to another man. Lambda Legal had requested a temporary restraining order last week on behalf of 69-year-old Fred McQuire, surviving husband of George Martinez, who died August 28 at the age of 62.

Judge John Sedwick, visiting judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, said Arizona officials must provide McQuire a death certificate that lists Martinez as legally married to McQuire. An accurate death certificate is necessary for a surviving spouse to settle their loved one’s affairs, as well as to collect veterans, social security and other benefits generally available to surviving spouses.

Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel for Lambda Legal, said:

Today’s order means that Fred can grieve his husband with dignity and a lot less worry about his own future. The way the state has fought this simple issue of awarding a disabled vet the respect he deserves is shameful. George would have been thrilled with this outcome—all he ever wanted to do was take care of Fred and Judge Sedwick’s order will make sure his last wish is fulfilled.

Lambda Legal client Fred McQuire said:

I’m ecstatic and so grateful that my marriage to George is recognized. My birthday is next week and this is the best birthday present I could have ever hoped for. This is the highest honor that we could offer George and his memory—he would be so proud. Even though this ruling is for George and me, I hope this is going to help other families, too. No one else should have to deal with the pain and humiliation of not being able to take care of something as simple and sensitive as a death certificate for their spouse.

Love Unites US: Arizona

Fred and George met in 1969. George served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, and Fred served in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army and was stationed in Guam. After his military service, George joined the staff of Arizona’s Court of Appeals in Tucson, where he became the court’s first Deputy Clerk. He served in that role with dedication, professionalism and warmth for thirty years.

In recent years, both George and Fred battled life-threatening illnesses which required multiple hospitalizations. Fred suffers from pulmonary disease and Parkinson’s, and George was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago that resulted from his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. While the prostate cancer was in remission, this past June George was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The two married in California in July, slightly more than a month before George’s death.

Read the press release.