The following comes from a March 18 story in the New York Times

Nine years ago, city officials here sued to strike down a state ban on same-sex marriage. It was the first government challenge to such a law, and it set in motion a legal chain reaction that gave rise to a momentous Supreme Court case to be argued next Tuesday.

The move was also the beginning of a kind of civil disobedience movement by government officials. Around the nation, executive branch officials started to abandon their traditional role, which is to enforce the laws and defend them when they are challenged in court.

“We’re defense lawyers,” Dennis J. Herrera, the city attorney, said in his office in San Francisco’s palatial City Hall. “We defend laws that are on the books. And we got a lot of heat at the time for stepping out of that traditional defense role.”

In the years that followed, Mr. Herrera’s office — which now includes five former Supreme Court law clerks, more than some major law firms — has been involved in every phase of the legal war over same-sex marriage in California.

San Francisco’s strategy eventually spread to the State of California and the federal government. Instead of defending state and federal laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown of California urged courts to hold them unconstitutional.

That has complicated the Supreme Court’s job in challenges to Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriages, and to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Because the plaintiffs and defendants in both cases agree that the laws under review are unconstitutional, there is a question about whether the justices have anything to decide. Indeed, when the justices in December agreed to hear the two same-sex marriage cases, they went out of their way to ask for briefs on whether the court has the power to decide them in light of the actions of government officials.

John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and the chairman of the National Association for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, said government officials in the two cases had demonstrated “a cavalier attitude toward their duties to enforce the law.” He was particularly critical of Mr. Herrera’s suit, which followed a brief period in 2004 during which Gavin Newsom, then the mayor of San Francisco and now the state’s lieutenant governor, instructed city officials here to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “It was exhibiting lawlessness,” Professor Eastman said.

Mr. Herrera said it was sometimes necessary for government lawyers to attack the laws they are charged with defending. “When a disfavored minority is being targeted,” he said, “it’s up to a public law office to stop it.”

San Francisco’s role in the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144, has been overshadowed by that of Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, the prominent lawyers who in 2009 filed the suit challenging the initiative. The city promptly intervened, and the two teams of lawyers worked closely together at the trial.

Mr. Olson, a former United States solicitor general who has argued some 60 cases in the Supreme Court, said the quality of the work from Mr. Herrera’s office was exceptional.

“Their briefs have been superb,” Mr. Olson said….

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