Ernest “Ernie” Dronenburg, the county clerk in San Diego, California, and his lawyers filed an emergency petition before the California courts this afternoon asking for a temporary stay to state Attorney General Kamala Harris’ (D) recent order to start accepting marriage licenses applications. Her order followed the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriage and the Monday state Supreme Court ruling refusing to issue a stay to other petitioners.
Dronenburg seeks an immediate stay in order to refrain from issuing marriage licenses while his case is considered, after which he claims to expect that he will not be forced by the state to issue such licenses. In his brief (available at BuzzFeed), Dronenburg argues that the federal courts have no jurisdiction over marriage in the state, that the state officials who ordered county clerks to issue marriage licenses in keeping with the courts’ rulings have no authority to tell him what to do, and that he is the one attempting to uphold the actual state law which supposedly defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Dronenburg additionally claims that, without an injunction to allow him to deny marriage licenses to couples seeking to marry in the county, he is “suffering, and will continue to suffer, irreparable injury and damage.”
Attorney General Harris responded to the suit in a press release, which read: “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.” She has until 9:00 am on Monday to provide a response to the court about Dronenburg’s suit, and he’ll have another 24 hours after that to respond to her filings.
San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Dronenburg acted on his own and without consulting county officials. He added, “The County’s position is and always has been that we, the County, will follow applicable law with regards to same sex marriage.”
Dronenburg, who was first elected to office in 2010, is represented in his legal proceedings by the Freedom of Defense Conscience Fund, which also filed briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court in support of keeping same sex marriage illegal in California. They are also currently representing a New Jersey non-profit, JONAH, which is being sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for fraud because it offers so-called “gay conversion therapy” promising to “cure” clients. The FDCF is additionally involved in cases related to the birth control mandate of the Affordable Care Act and once sued the city of San Diego for sexual harassment after four Christian firefighters were asked to participate in an LGBT pride parade.
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