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San Diego County Sues to Revive State’s Gay-Marriage Ban

San Diego County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg sued to block a state directive ordering him to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, saying California’s Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban is still valid.

Dronenburg and the state’s 57 other county clerks were ordered by California Governor Jerry Brown to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a federal appeals court in San Francisco lifted a hold on the practice. The court acted two days after the U.S. Supreme Court on July 26 ruled 5-4 on procedural grounds to reinstate a judge’s order allowing gay marriages.

Opponents of gay weddings allege the high court decision didn’t invalidate Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that amended the state’s constitution to ban same-sex nuptials.

Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, both Democrats, don’t have supervisory control over county clerks and a San Francisco federal judge’s 2010 ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional doesn’t apply to Dronenburg, according to a petition filed with the California Supreme Court yesterday. Dronenburg is a Republican, according to, an online election archive.

“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 said in a court filing. “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.”

Marriage Licenses

Dronenburg asked for an immediate court order blocking the directive and letting him refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples until the lawsuit is decided.

“The filing offers no new arguments that could deny same-sex couples their constitutionally protected civil rights,” Harris said in a statement. “The federal injunction is still in effect, and it requires all 58 counties to perform same-sex marriages. No exceptions.”

The California Supreme Court, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed, on July 15 refused a similar request for an immediate injunction reinstating Proposition 8 filed by the voter-approved measure’s backers, who are suing the state to revive the proposition.

The case is Dronenburg v. Brown, S212172, California Supreme Court (San Francisco).

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