For the second time in a week, the California Supreme Court has refused to halt same-sex marriages across the state while it considers the latest legal showdown over Proposition 8.
In a one-line order filed Tuesday, the justices rejected the San Diego county clerk's bid to restore California's same-sex marriage ban while they review a two-pronged effort to keep the 2008 voter-approved law on the books.
The state's high court last week unanimously denied a similar request to immediately stop the marriages filed by Proposition 8's sponsors.
Ernest Dronenburg Jr., San Diego's clerk-recorder, brought his legal challenge last week, arguing that he should not have to obey the state's mandate that clerks throughout California now must issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The governor and attorney general handed down that edict in late June, when the U.S. Supreme Court effectively invalidated Proposition 8 in a ruling that found the measure's supporters never had the legal right to defend the law.
As a result of that ruling, the Supreme Court left intact a federal judge's 2010 decision declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. ProtectMarriage.com, the measure's backers, argue that the ruling only applied to the two couples who challenged the law and perhaps their two home counties, Alameda and Los Angeles, but not statewide.
ProtectMarriage.com and San Diego's clerk have filed separate cases in the state Supreme Court urging the justices to conclude Proposition 8 remains in force in at least 56 of the state's 58 counties.
Dronenburg, in his court papers, said the situation has left him in a legal quandary because issuing marriage licenses conflicts with Proposition 8.
Attorney General Kamala Harris has pushed the Supreme Court to reject the bid to halt same-sex marriages, calling the legal maneuver a last-ditch attempt to salvage Proposition 8. San Francisco filed similar arguments earlier this week, joined by Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties.
In a separate brief, 20 county clerks asked the Supreme Court to reject the arguments of gay marriage foes, saying the state has the legal authority over marriage licensing.
Monterey and Contra Costa County clerks were among those signing on to that legal brief.
The Supreme Court is not expected to decide the issue until at least sometime in August.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.