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CA Supreme Court Rejects Prop. 8 Proponents' Appeal To Stop Same-Sex Marriages

6a00d8341c730253ef0192ac06de7f970d-800wiThe California Supreme Court has rejected the requests put forth by backers of Prop. 8 to halt same-sex marriage in California. The court had previously denied a request to at least temporarily stop same-sex marriage in California, which resumed shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court's dismissal of Hollngsworth v. Perry on the grounds of standing, while it considered the legal challenges raised by Prop. 8's proponents. The LA Times reports:

Meeting in closed session, the state high court rejected arguments by ProtectMarriage, Proposition 8’s sponsors, that only an appellate court could overturn a statewide law.

A federal judge in San Francisco declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010, and state officials refused to appeal. ProtectMarriage did appeal, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that initiative sponsors have no right to defend their measures in federal court. The decision left in place the ruling by retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker.

In its challenge before the state’s highest court, ProtectMarriage argued that a single judge lacked the authority to overturn a state constitutional amendment.  The group also contended that Walker’s injunction applied to two counties at most and that state officials had overstepped their authority by ordering county clerks throughout California to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

State officials countered that the challenge was a veiled attempt to persuade a state court to interfere with a federal judge’s order in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The California Supreme Court's ruling also applies to the briefs filed by San Diego county clerk, Ernest J. Dronenburg, thus putting to an end, at least for now, his contentious attempts to stop same-sex couples from marrying in the Golden State. BuzzFeed reports that California Attorney General Kamala Harris welcomed the court's rejection of the writ of mandate:

"Once again, equality and freedom triumph in California. The California Supreme Court has denied the Proposition 8 proponents’ latest attempt to deny same-sex couples their constitutional right to marry. I applaud the Court’s decision and my office will continue to defend the civil rights of all Californians."


SD County Clerk Withdraws Petition to Halt Same-Sex Marriages

San Diego County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg on Friday withdrew his petition asking the California Supreme Court to halt same-sex marriages and consider whether the Supreme Court's Prop 8 ruling applies only to the plaintiffs involved in the case, the Union Tribune reports:

DronenburgIn a news release sent out Friday afternoon, Dronenburg said he canceled the petition because it covered the same ground as another petition filed earlier to the court.

The first petition was filed July 12 by Dennis Hollingsworth and others. Hollingsworth, a former state senator, has worked with ProtectMarriage.com in support of Proposition 8, which amended the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Dronenburg said he was withdrawing his petition, which he filed July 19, to speed up the legal process that he hopes will clarify the current legal standing of Prop. 8.

Both petitions asked the state Supreme Court to stop county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court has denied that request, but has not responded to other questions about the legality of same-sex marriages in California.

“Because I am dropping my action, the California Supreme Court can start tomorrow in making a decision in the lead case of Hollingsworth v. O’Connell and Brown,” Dronenburg wrote in his Friday announcement.

Dronenburg's actions quickly came under scrutiny by the County Board of Supervisors, who distanced themselves from Dronenburg's actions and announced they would review whether his hiring of an outside counsel (a Prop 8 supporter) was legal.


SD County Board To Review Clerk's Anti-Gay Actions

StevensSan Diego Supervisor Ron Roberts announced yesterday that Ernest J. Dronenburg, the San Diego County Clerk who recently asked the California Supreme Court to halt gay marriages state-wide, will be the subject of a special meeting of the county's board of supervisors to be held next week. Roberts said in a statement posted on Facebook,

As Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk, Ernest Dronenburg is an independently elected official. I strongly disagree with his decision to file this lawsuit and his subsequent public statements. He is acting on his own, without any direction or consultation from the Board of Supervisors, which was made clear last Friday in a statement I issued and a joint statement on behalf of the entire Board. We will be reviewing this matter with county attorneys during a closed session next week.

Perhaps of particular concern to the board is the question of whether Dronenburg violated the County's Administrative Code of ordinances by hiring Charles LiMandri of Rancho Santa Fe, a vocal supporter of Prop. 8., to represent his petition before the court when the code states that only the County Counsel can be hired for legal services that serve "county purposes." According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dronenburg insists that because San Diego's County Counsel Tom Montgomery rejected his initial petition it was permissible for him to seek outside counsel.

Dronenburg claims his main motivation in filing suit is to seek clarification from the high court as to whether Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 ruling, currently the preeminent ruling following the US Supreme Court's dismissal of Hollingsworth v. Perry on the grounds of standing, has the power to amend the California Constitution by way of overriding Proposition 8 when, according to Dronenburg, only an appellate court has the power to change the state constitution. However, Susan Jester, president of the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego, may have said it best: “Hiring Charles LiMandri for clarification of this issue would be like sending the fox into the henhouse to count the chicken and the eggs. His job is to implement the law, not to try to change it."

Perhaps even more difficult to reconcile with what we know about this is case is Dronenburg's assertion that he has the best interests of LGBT Californians at heart. According to the Union-Tribune,

"[Dronenburg] said his intention was to protect same-sex couples from the possible disappointment of having their marriages voided if a future court decision affirms the validity of Prop. 8. 'I asked for a stay because I believe it’s cruel to set up people,' he said. Dronenburg recalled that in 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom instructed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and then the state Supreme Court ordered the city to stop such marriages after almost 4,000 licenses had been issued."

PicpicNonetheless, Dronenburg has been widely panned for his actions. A new poll released by the Union-Tribune shows a majority (52%) of San Diegans oppose Dronenburg's efforts to prohibit same-sex couples from getting married. Dronenburg's decision to get involved in this issue came as a surprise to some. VoiceofSanDiego.org reports that in his 2010 campaign for county clerk, Dronenburg pledged that if, "Prop. 8 is ultimately negated, his office [would] treat same-sex couples with respect and dignity." Many in San Diego have also felt that Dronenburg's actions have cast a pall over the city's once glistening reputation as a bastion of bipartisan support for LGBT rights and equality.

(Poll photo via The San Diego Union-Tribune)


CA Supreme Court Rejects SD Clerk's Request To Halt Same-Sex Marriages

6a00d8341c730253ef0192ac06de7f970d-800wiOn Tuesday the California Supreme Court denied a request filed by San Diego County Clerk Ernest J. Dronenburg to halt gay marriages in California until the Court can review whether Proposition 8 is still law in all but two counties, the AP reports. The court will not consider that issue til August. In the meantime same-sex marriages are able to continue state-wide without interruption. Petitioners, primarily Dronenburg and state Attorney General Kamala Harris, have until August 8 to file additional written arguments. The news that the request was denied did not surprise many primarily because the Court recently rejected a similar request by the backers of Propisition 8 who used the same arguments put forth by Dronenburg in attempt to prevent gay couples from tieing the knot.

In addition to arguing for a more limited interpretation of Judge Vaugh Walker's 2010 ruling against Proposition 8, Dronenburg has also claimed that "county clerks aren't bound by orders from the governor, the state attorney general and the state officials who oversee marriage records." A large number of California counties, however, disagree with his interpretation of the law: "Clerks in 24 counties have submitted briefs arguing that it makes sense for their actions with regard to issuing marriage licenses to be guided by state officials so marriage laws are the same statewide."

And though Dronenburg has claimed to be only seeking clarification from the court, he has chosen as his representative, "Rancho Santa Fe lawyer Charles LiMandri, who donated $10,000 and loaned another $27,000 to the campaigns to qualify and pass Proposition 8, according to state campaign finance records," calling into question his true motives for filing in the first place.


The "Gay" Marriage Misdirection: Justice Alito Gets It Wrong in Windsor

By BRIAN CHELCUN and ARI EZRA WALDMAN

I am pleased to welcome guest columnist, Brian Chelcun, a graduate of N.Y.U. Law School and a friend, who both conceived of and principally drafted today's installment of "What's Next." Towleroad is honored to have the benefit of his keen insight. The "What's Next" series takes an in depth look at marriage and gay rights, in general, after the Supreme Court's momentous rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8. Today's column looks at Justice Alito's dissenting opinion in Windsor.

1299099052136Back in March, when the Supreme Court heard oral argument Windsor v. United States, the media -- Towleroad included -- quickly jumped on a provocative question posed by Justice Samuel Alito:  

"Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new… [You] want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet?"

Last week we discussed Justice Scalia’s dissent, a sloppy, berating conceit lambasting what he perceived as judicial activism and warning (again) about the impending extension of marriage equality across the country. Justice Alito’s dissent is a little different: it's a little less bombastic and focuses mainly on the "newness" of the institution of same-sex marriage. But, like Justice Scalia's, Justice Alito's dissent doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

He repeatedly invokes the phrase "same-sex marriage," a term that is often used as shorthand for marriage equality. It seems innocuous enough, and many advocates have probably used it in conversation to avoid more tongue-twisting phrases such as "marriage for same-sex couples." So why is Alito wrong to use it (over, and over, in his dissent), and why should we avoid it as well?

Continue reading AFTER THE JUMP to see how Justice Alito’s assessment of "same-sex marriage" is flawed, and doesn't appreciate what Windsor v. United States and the marriage equality battle are really about. His dissent serves as a timely reminder to those of us who are continuing the fight to expand marriage equality about how important the phrasing of a few words like "same-sex marriage" can be.

Continue reading "The "Gay" Marriage Misdirection: Justice Alito Gets It Wrong in Windsor" »


CA Attorney General Urges Court To Deny San Diego Clerk's Petition To Halt Same-Sex Marriages: READ

Harris

Late last week, San Diego County Clerk Ernest J. Dronenburg Jr. filed a petition with the California Supreme Court to halt same-sex marriages in the state on the grounds that the 2010 federal court ruling by District Judge Vaugh Walker only applies to the two couples who petitioned the court and their respective counties (Los Angeles and Alameda). On Monday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris strongly urged the court to deny the request for a stay, according to the LA Times:

“The public interest weighs sharply against issuing a stay in this case,” Harris’ office argued. “After years of litigation, there is now a final determination that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

Responding to Dronenburg's notion that a more limited view of Walker's ruling should be applied, "Harris countered that [Walker's] injunction applied statewide because it also ordered [Governor] Brown and other statewide officials to stop enforcing Proposition 8, and those officials have authority over county clerks."

In briefs filed with the Court, Harris went even further in arguing against the requested stay of same-sex marriages:

"The Court should deny the stay because the petitioner has no likelihood of success on the merits. The petition is an impermissible collateral attack on the district court's final judgment. This Court is not the proper forum to litigate the scope or validity of the district court's injunction, as that question is properly presented to the federal district court. The federal injunction applies statewide, and the State Registrar's notices to the petitioner of his legal obligations under the terms of a federal injunction do not violate article III, section 3.5 of the California Constitution. Even if successful, the requested stay would not shield petitioner from proceedings to compel his compliance with the federal injunction."

Dronenburg's petition is the second in California to challenge same-sex marriage in California since the Supreme Court overturned Prop. 8 on a question of standing in June. Last week a request from the backers of Prop. 8 to halt gay marriages was denied by the California Supreme Court.

Read Harris' opposition to the stay AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "CA Attorney General Urges Court To Deny San Diego Clerk's Petition To Halt Same-Sex Marriages: READ" »


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