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California high court
blocks S.F. 'marriages'

The California Supreme Court issued an order today blocking San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

The case, brought by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, was supported by traditional-family defenders who also had filed a separate suit to stop the city from issuing the licenses.

The decision came as Massachusetts lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage but allowing civil unions, which grant nearly all the rights and benefits of marriage.

San Francisco, under Newsom’s order, issued the first officially sanctioned marriage licenses to same-sex couples in American history Feb. 12. More than 3,700 ceremonies have been conducted since then. A week later, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid intervened to stop a clerk in Bernalillo, N.M., who began issuing licenses to same-sex couples. These developments and others came after the Massachusetts high court struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in November in a ruling to be implemented in mid-May.

The Florida-based Liberty Counsel on behalf of Campaign for California Families filed suit against Mayor Newsom last month with the State Superior Court in a case scheduled to be heard March 29.

The California Supreme Court has stayed that hearing, however.

CCF contends Newsom violated nine state civil laws, a statewide voter initiative known as Proposition 22 and a criminal law.

The high court today ordered San Francisco to show cause for its actions.

Pending the court’s determination, the city shall “refrain from issuing [same-sex] marriage licenses or certificates.”

Liberty Council’s president and general counsel, Mat Staver, said he was pleased the court “put an end to Mayor Newsom’s lawless activities.”

“The mayor took an oath to uphold the laws of the state of California,” Staver said. “He violated his oath and made a mockery of the democratic system. Order has now returned to San Francisco. The rule of law has prevailed. Marriage remains only between one man and one woman.”

Meanwhile, Oregon Circuit Court Judge Frank Bearden granted the Defense of Marriage Coalition a writ of mandate today in its case against Multnomah County.

It forces the county to appear at a hearing to either demonstrate it has issued legal marriage licenses only to opposite-sex couples or to explain why county officials have not obeyed Oregon law, which limits marriage to one man and one woman.

The Alliance Defense Fund joined the coalition in a lawsuit filed last Friday to permanently stop the Multnomah clerical staff from issuing the licenses.

On Monday, Multnomah County judge Judge Dale Koch refused to block officials from issuing the licenses. The judge said the Defense of Marriage Coalition failed to show irreparable harm and likelihood of future success.

A Portland man filed with the county’s Elections Division his intention to recall county Chairwoman Diane Linn and Commissioner Lisa Naito, the Oregonian newspaper reported. Johny A. Belgrade has 90 days to collect 36,786 signatures from around the county and 8,296 in Naito’s district.

In Monday’s hearing, the Coalition’s lead attorney, Kelly Clark, argued state marriage law clearly was intended to define marriage as between a man and a woman, which takes precedence over the county’s opinion that the law violates the constitution, the Oregonian reported.

He argued Linn, Naito and other officials violated public meetings law by secretly enacting such a controversial change in public policy.

“That’s not the spirit, that’s not the intent of the public meetings law,” Clark said, according to the Portland paper.

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, which intervened on behalf of several same-sex couples, insisted Linn made an executive decision.

“It is not something that needs to be put for a vote before a legislative body,” said Kenneth Choe, a New York City-based attorney.

County commissioners are confident their legal opinion would hold up in court.

“We will keep emphasizing that this was not a legislative matter but a legal matter,” Linn said. “We are following the letter of the law. At this stage, there is no evidence that led the judge to grant a restraining order. We’ll now follow this to the next step.”

The Defense of Marriage Coalition was created after the county began issuing same-sex marriage licenses March 3 for the first time in state history. The group also is considering a statewide ballot measure.

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