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California court rejects bid to halt gay marriages in state

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June 28, 2013: Nicola Simmersbach, left, displays a marriage license as she Diana Luiz, leaves the Sacramento County Recorder's office after they got married in Sacramento, Calif.AP

California's highest court refused Tuesday to block the state from sanctioning same-sex marriages while it considers a petition arguing that a voter-approved gay marriage ban remains valid in all but two counties.

Without comment, the California Supreme Court rejected a request from the elected government official in charge of issuing marriage licenses in San Diego County for an order halting gay marriages, which resumed in the state last month for the first time since the ban passed in November 2008.

County clerk Ernest Dronenburg Jr. sought the stay on Friday. He also asked the seven-member court to consider his legal argument that same-sex marriages still are illegal in most of California, despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision widely regarded as having authorized them and the state attorney general's assertion that clerks throughout the state must issue licenses to gay couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages to return to the nation's most populous state last month when it ruled that the sponsors of Proposition 8 lacked authority to appeal a federal trial judge's decision that the ban violated the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian Californians.

Dronenburg claims that the trial court's companion directive ordering the governor, attorney general and state public health director to cease enforcing Proposition 8 applies only to the two couples who sued to overturn the ban, and to the clerks in Alameda and Los Angeles counties, where the couples applied for marriage licenses.

Dronenburg, a Republican who was elected as San Diego County's assessor-recorder-clerk in 2010 and who has been known chiefly for his views on tax issues, also argues that county clerks aren't bound by orders from the governor, the state attorney general and the state officials who oversee marriage records.

He is being represented by 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.

The state high court has asked for more written arguments on those issues by Aug. 8.

The court last week rejected a similar request for a temporary hold on same-sex marriages from the sponsors of Proposition 8, who have made arguments similar to Dronenburg's about the scope of the trial court's injunction. Lawyers for Proposition 8's backers also have argued that because the U.S. Supreme Court did not rule directly on the measure's constitutionality, state officials are bound by state law to enforce it.

The California Supreme Court must decide if it will take up their case and has asked for additional written arguments by Aug. 1. So far, 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.