SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court once again refused to stop gays from marrying, rejecting a bid Tuesday by a San Diego County clerk.
In a closed session, the state high court turned down a request by San Diego County Clerk Ernest J. Dronenburg Jr. for a temporary hold or “stay” on same-sex marriages. The court rejected a similar request last week by the sponsors of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that banned gay marriage.
Dronenburg asked the court Friday to stop the marriages while it considers whether a 2010 federal injunction required him and other county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He noted that the California Constitution continues to define marriage as an opposite-sex union.
ProtectMarriage, the sponsor of Proposition 8, has argued that the injunction by a San Francisco trial judge was limited at most to two counties, Los Angeles and Alameda, the homes of the two same-sex couples who challenged the marriage ban in federal court.
So far, clerks from about 24 of the state’s 58 counties, including Los Angeles, have opposed the attempt to revive Proposition 8.
Same-sex couples began marrying in California again June 28, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that initiative sponsors may not take the place of state officials in defending a ballot measure.
The ruling reinstated the injunction by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who ordered state officials and the clerks of Alameda and Los Angeles counties to stop enforcing Proposition 8.
State officials say the new challenges amount to a backhanded attempt to persuade a state court to interpret a federal judge’s order. Such challenges properly belong in federal court, the lawyers for state officials have argued.
Under the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, ProtectMarriage has no standing to return to federal court to try to modify or clarify the injunction. California law, however, permits initiative sponsors to defend their measures in state court.
The California Supreme Court is not expected to rule on the challenges until August at the earliest.
The court struck down California’s ban on gay marriage in 2008, but voters reinstated it when they passed Proposition 8 six months later.
Two gay couples then went to federal court to challenge the ban on U.S. constitutional grounds, resulting in the U.S. Supreme Court’s procedural ruling last month.