San Diego County Clerk Defends Prop 8 Stay Request

"We want to just obey the law. The law is not clear," the county clerk said


The San Diego County official who asked for a stay on same-sex marriages in California defended his actions Tuesday saying the recent Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 has created a quagmire.

County Assessor Recorder-Clerk Ernie Dronenburg, with the help of Prop 8 proponent and attorney Charles LiMandri, petitioned the California Supreme Court Friday requesting a stay on same-sex marriages in California. Read petition here

Despite Dronenburg's efforts, Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Tuesday afternoon that the California Supreme Court has denied the clerk's request to halt same-sex marriages.

In 2008, Californian voters adopted the constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage that set of a long legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June, justices decided that it could not rule on a challenge to Prop. 8, paving the way for same-sex marriage to resume.

On Tuesday, Dronenburg stood outside the county administration building where couples go to apply for marriage licenses and said he didn’t take the action lightly.

Dronenburg said he didn't take the action to stop same-sex marriages but rather to gain legal clarity on the issue.

“I asked for a stay because I believe it’s cruel to set up people,” Dronenburg said. “In 2004, the court came out against it and they had to unwrap 4,000 marriages. That is hurtful. That should not be the government,” he said.

Timeline: Prop 8 in California

Susan Jester, Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego County President, wants the county clerk to stop using his office to interfere with the law.

“I don’t believe it’s good government to mix your religious beliefs with your constitutional office duties,” Jester said.

“His job is to implement the law, not to try to change it.”

Lori Hensic with the American Military Partner Association called the legal motion a “direct attack” on military service members who plan to marry their partners.

Pastor Richard McCullen of the Missiongathering Church called for an investigation into Dronenburg's actions while telling the clerk to "do his job or to step aside."

Dronenburg said he informed the San Diego County Board of Supervisors that he was going to file the motion before Friday.

The paperwork was filed at no cost to county taxpayers Dronenburg said. He said he is working with a pro-bono lawyer and using personal funds.

“In the California constitution there's a provision that says unless an appellate court strikes down a California law, in this case a constitutional amendment that should still be enforced by government officials, “LiMandri told NBC 7 on Friday.

That provision - Article III, Section 3.5 of the California Constitution - states an administrative agency has no power to declare a statute unenforceable … on the basis of it being unconstitutional unless an appellate court has made a determination that such statute is unconstitutional.”

It’s one of several legal arguments Dronenburg said he’s seeking guidance on. The others include a question on jurisdiction and on whether the California Department of Health has authority over county clerks.

While Dronenburg was speaking to the media, a man confronted him and asked why the clerk's office issued him a marriage license only to then turn around and request a stay.

Dronenburg directly addressed the man saying he filed the legal motion to protect him.

“I gave you the marriage license because I was told to issue the marriage license. I entered the suit to say timeout so you wouldn’t be put in this position,” he said.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris has threatened legal action against any county clerk that fails to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples.

On Friday, Harris issued the following statement: "The filing offers no new arguments that could deny same-sex couples their constitutionally protected civil rights. The federal injunction is still in effect, and it requires all 58 counties to perform same-sex marriages. No exceptions."

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