Tuesday, July 30, 2013
County Clerks Must Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses, A.G. Tells S.C.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
County clerks in California must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that proponents of Proposition 8 lacked standing to defend it, Attorney General Kamala Harris told the state Supreme Court in a pleading filed yesterday.
The attorney general made the argument in a preliminary opposition to a petition for writ of mandate brought on behalf of Ernest Dronenburg Jr. , the San Diego County clerk.
Dronenburg argued in his petition last week that he is not bound by the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, because he was not party to the litigation and—as an independent, elected county official—is not subordinate to any of the state officials who were parties. Under that argument, the right of same-sex couples to marry would be limited to Alameda and Los Angeles counties, where the plaintiffs who brought the litigation live and whose clerks were named defendants.
“County clerks carry out their duties, including the issuances of marriage licenses, without supervision or control of the governor or attorney general,” Dronenburg wrote in his petition. “Indeed, no statute requires county clerks to report to the governor or attorney general.”
But Harris argued yesterday that Dronenburg’s position “conflicts with well-established principles of procedural and constitutional law.” She urged the justices to “reject petitioner’s improper use of the state court system to weaken the effect of the federal court’s judgment.”
Harris argued that the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker three years ago, which had been stayed until the nation’s highest court ruled last month, is now binding on the clerks and recorders who issue marriage licenses in all 58 counties. Dronenburg’s petition—which has drawn opposition from officials in at least 20 other counties—is an impermissible collateral attack on the federal judgment, the attorney general said.
Harris made similar arguments last week in urging the high court to deny a new stay that would have blocked same-sex marriages until Dronenburg’s petition is ruled on. The stay request was denied by the court without comment.
In yesterday’s filing, she said Dronenburg must comply with the injunction or ask the federal district court for relief.
Harris said Dronenburg is trying only “to create legal uncertainty where none actually exists.”
Dronenburg’s lawyers have until Aug. 9 to respond.
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