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When Chuck Storey ran for county clerk-recorder last year in California's Imperial County, he vowed to clean up an office he claimed had been plagued by inefficiency. He probably wasn't expecting to end up the lone spokesman in support of the state's gay marriage ban.
The 57-year-old real estate agent, a widower and father of three, pledged to run a tight ship in administering government documents such as property deeds, birth certificates, and marriage licenses. "Imperial County needs a businessman," he said during his campaign. And after less than two months in office, Storey has made headlines by requesting that the ninth U.S. circuit court of appeals allow him to be the primary defendant in a lawsuit to uphold Proposition 8 if the conservative groups that sponsored the measure are removed.
While voters in Imperial County were strong in their support of Prop. 8 in 2008, many locals say they were ready to let the issue fade away and are not pleased with Storey's representation of the region. "I'm a little disappointed that he would open up this can of worms for us," said Aaron Popejoy, president of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce. "It's one of those huge red flags that draw the wrong kind of attention to our community. We need to be a little more warm and welcoming."
"We can't think of one bit of good to come out of this effort in retrospect," read a recent editorial in the Imperial Valley Press. "It was a waste of time, energy and was damaging to the county's reputation. And it's happening again thanks to one self-aggrandizing man."
Storey declined to grant interviews, but wrote in his court filing that he felt conflicted over whether he should follow U.S. district judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that the measure was unconstitutional or obey voters' 2008 wishes. He felt Walker's decision "would create significant confusion for me and other Imperial County deputy clerks and officials in the performance of our legal duties regarding marriage."
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