The California Supreme Court on Tuesday said state clerks could continue issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. The court denied a San Diego clerk’s request to stay same-sex marriage licenses until the fate of Prop 8 is finally decided in state courts. The court previously denied a similar petition from the proponents of Proposition 8, the voter-passed state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Despite denying the stay, the state Supreme Court is still considering the clerk’s petition and one other on the legal status of Prop 8. The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t decide the issue last month, instead declaring the taxpayer group defending the amendment had no standing in federal court. That meant the only valid ruling on Prop 8 was at the District Court level. A District Court judge threw out Prop 8, but that ruling only technically applied to the couples in the case.
The taxpayers, as well as the county clerk, argued that because the District Court-level ruling didn’t apply to the whole state, Prop 8 should still be the law of the land. State officials argued they could order clerks to issue licenses for gay couples based on the District Court ruling, which they said could be applied statewide.
The state Supreme Court sided with state officials. But that’s not the end of the Prop 8 battle: The court must sort out the law’s standing after the state attorney general refused to defend it. The taxpayer group is continuing to defend the law in state court because the U.S. Supreme Court ruling denying them standing only applied to federal courts.