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Cal. clerk sues to block order forcing him to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples

San Diego County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg’s lawyers told the high court their client is “caught in the crossfire of a legal struggle over the definition of marriage.”
Mon Jul 22, 2013 - 5:26 pm EST

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA, July 22, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – A San Diego County clerk has asked the California Supreme Court to strike down a directive issued by Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris ordering clerks statewide to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples in violation of Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on homosexual “marriage.”

San Diego County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg’s lawyers told the high court their client is “caught in the crossfire of a legal struggle over the definition of marriage.”

“On the one hand, respondents have ordered him not to enforce state law and are threatening to punish him if he does not comply with that order,” Dronenburg's lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. “On the other hand, petitioner has an independent statutory obligation to enforce California law defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman.”

They asked the court to grant an immediate stay to prevent Dronenburg from having to violate the law, saying that “navigating this landmine of uncertainty on a daily basis is an ongoing and ever-present injury” to their client. 

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Dronenburg’s lawsuit comes on the heels of a similar filing by Protect Marriage, the group who originally sponsored Prop. 8 back in 2008.  The group argued last week that a 2010 ruling by a federal judge blocking the law’s enforcement applies only in the two counties directly mentioned in the case.  But the state’s Democratic leadership has ordered clerks in all 58 counties to ignore the law and proceed with same-sex “marriages,” threatening legal retribution for those who fail to comply.

Protect Marriage’s lawsuit asked the Court to block that order, reminding the Court, “This Court’s case law requires executive officials charged with ministerial duties to execute those duties regardless of their or others’ views about the constitutionality of the laws imposing those duties.”

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The petition continues, “Article III, section 3.5 of the California Constitution prohibits government agencies and officials from declaring state law unenforceable, or declining to enforce state law, on the basis that the law is unconstitutional, unless an appellate court has first made that determination.”

The Supreme Court ruled June 26 that Proposition 8’s backers lacked the standing to fight for it in federal court, meaning the 2010 injunction still stands.  But attorneys for both Project Marriage and Dronenburg argue that the ruling only applies to the two counties mentioned in the original lawsuit, not the entire state, and that since the high Court chose not to rule on the constitutionality of the law itself, it hasn’t been struck down.

Last week, Protect Marriage’s attorneys asked the Supreme Court to grant county clerks not directly affected by the 2010 injunction an immediate stay against the attorney general’s demand that they break state law in order to approve gay unions. 

“This has become more than just a fight over marriage,” said Protect Marriage’s general counsel Andrew Pugno. “The authority of local government officials, and the future of the initiative process itself, is put at grave risk if state officials are allowed to nullify a proposition by executive order, backed by no binding legal precedent.”

The court denied their request on the grounds that the group has no personal standing in the case.

However, Dronenburg’s situation is different in that he is directly impacted by the attorney general’s order. 

Dronenburg told the state Supreme Court in his petition that he and other county clerks need “definitive guidance from this court on this critical question of state law.”

Dronenburg has also asked to join the Protect Marriage lawsuit going forward.

Pugno, representing Protect Marriage, praised Dronenburg for his actions, saying, “We applaud San Diego’s county clerk for courageously standing up against the attorney general’s attempt to bully local officials into ignoring our state Constitution.” Added Pugno, “We hope other county clerks will bravely step forward as well.”


  california, marriage, proposition 8

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