SAN DIEGO - Three weeks after the nation’s highest court made a ruling on Proposition 8, which overturned the ban on same-sex marriages, tying the knot in San Diego may be tangled up in tension again.
San Diego County's embattled clerk/assessor/recorder said Tuesday his request to temporarily halt same-sex weddings in California was made to clarify issues and protect gay and lesbian couples.
Ernest Dronenberg filed the motion last week to find out how June's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage affects voter-passed Proposition 8 and whether the decision applies to all of California, or just Alameda and Los Angeles counties, where the couples that challenged the ballot measure live.
He said he also wanted to know whether county clerks, who are elected by voters, are independent or governed by state officials.
Proposition 8, which defines marriage in the state as between one man and one woman, was declared unconstitutional in rulings by lower courts. The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule on the law's merits, but declared that backers of the ballot measure did not have standing to bring an appeal.
Supporters of traditional marriage have denounced the ruling and promised renewed legal action.
Dronenberg spoke to reporters after a group of gay and lesbian Republicans called for a county investigation of his request.
Five people, ranging from an evangelical pastor to gay rights activist, Sean Sala, stood in front of the San Diego County administration building and blasted Dronenburg.
“Once again we’re having to defend our rights as citizens under the law,” Sala said.
“Proponents of Proposition 8, those that want to ban gay marriage -- you’ve lost,” Sala added.
Protestors say Dronenburg is supposed to implement the law, not overturn the law. They are upset because he is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to put a stay on same sex marriages.
While the group calling for the investigation continued to speak to local news media, 10News noticed Dronenburg standing on the edge of the crowd and approached him.
“I was here because they said we were using county dollars,” Dronenburg told 10News. He insisted no county dollars were being used in the matter.
Despite having called off a news conference scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, 10News asked him to address the accusations, and he agreed.
“My job is to marry people, I’m doing that,” Dronenburg explained. “I haven’t stopped that.”
He said, since the Supreme Court did not make a decision, and vacated the appellate court’s decision, he was left with questions, such as, who the case covers and who oversees him?
“Right now, they really put us in a quagmire without direction,” he added.
Dronenburg explained that he called for a “time out” until he receives clarification.
Chris Harris was looking for some direction himself. He and his partner were the second couple in San Diego County to have received a same sex marriage license since 2004, and said he has hundreds coming to San Diego for his wedding in August.
Harris interrupted Dronenburg’s impromptu news conference with his concerns.
“You gave me a marriage license and now you’re asking for a stay,” Harris firmly said to Dronenburg.
"To protect you,” Dronenburg responded.
“There are human beings behind these questions no one else is asking questions, but you,” Harris said.
Dronenburg told Harris he does not want to pull thousands of marriage licenses like they did back in 2004, and said that is why he is asking questions. He hopes to have answers within a couple weeks.
“I don’t want to be a target,” Dronenburg said. “I believe I have a responsibility to do this.”
Harris told 10News he is growing more anxious about an already stressful day -- the big day.
Despite Dronenburg's action, the county clerk's office has been issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
After Dronenberg took the action last week, Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox said the clerk was acting on his own.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Dronenberg's petition did not bring up any new issues, and that all 58 counties were bound to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
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