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Religious Tolerance logo

Seeking same sex marriages (SSM) in Colorado

Part 8: 2014-FEB to JUL: County clerk issues
marriage licenses. Federal lawsuit filed to
overturn SSM ban. State court overturns SSM ban.
Chaos reigns as some county clerks issue
marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

2014-OCT: U.S. Supreme Court indirectly
legalized same-sex marriage in Colorado!


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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2014-JUN-25: A County clerk in Colorado starts issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

On JUN-25, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the first Circuit Court to rule on a same-sex marriage case. A District Court in Utah had ruled in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The decision was appealed to the 10th circuit. They upheld the lower court's decision but immediately stayed their ruling pending a possible appeal to the full court or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 10th Circuit handles cases from six states: CO, KS, NM, OK, UT, and WY. When they issue a ruling it often applies to all six states. That was enough for County Clerk Hillary Hall of Boulder County in Colorado to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples within hours of the 10th circuit decision. She said that she acted without waiting because same-sex couples had waited a long time to be able to marry in her state. She said that she would not stop unless she is ordered to by a court. She issued a statement saying:

"Given the 10th Circuit's recent decision and the numerous other cases on this issue, I would be surprised if a judge in Colorado were willing to invalidate a marriage license simply because the parties to the marriage were the same sex."

Two licenses were issued to same-sex couples on the 25th, 15 more by noon on the 26th. By coincidence, the JUN-26 is the first anniversary of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Windsor v. United States. That ruling declared the main clause of the federal DOMA law to be unconstitutional. It also kick-started a series of over 70 lawsuits in federal and state courts to overturn bans in various states of same-sex marriage.

Jennifer Hendricks, a family and constitutional law expert at the University of Colorado said that it might be difficult to find a judge who would rule against a decision of the 10th Circuit that is probably going to end up at the Supreme Court, even though that decision had been stayed. 6

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2014-JUL-01: Lawsuit filed to overturn same-sex marriage ban in Colorado:

Six same-sex couples have filed a lawsuit at a federal District Court in Denver. Their goal is to have the same-sex marriage ban in Colorado's constitution declared unconstitutional. It is called Amendment 43, and was barely approved by only 55% of voters in 2006. With the surge in support for same-sex marriage nationally since that 2006, there is little doubt that such an Amendment would be overwhelmingly defeated if the people in the state were given a chance to voter on it today.

The lawsuit states, in part:

"Colorado law unlawfully denies the issuance of marriage licenses, and refuses to recognize the [out-of-state] marriage[s] of certain couples, based solely on the sex of the persons in the marriage union."

Kate Burns and Sheila Schroeder from Englewood, CO are one of the couples who filed the lawsuit. Ms. Burns said:

"We are standing together today on the side of love."

Meanwhile, Attorney General John Suthers (R) has warned County Clerk Hall that she must immediately stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples or face legal action from his office. 7,8

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2014-JUL-09: State trial judge overturns SSM bans in Colorado:

Adams County District Judge C. Scott Crabtree of Brighton, CO issued an opinion that declared the amendment to the state constitution, and the state statutes banning same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. He then stayed his ruling in the expectation of an appeal of his ruling by state officials to an appeals court, and then perhaps to the state Supreme Court. This ruling continues the unbroken series of state and federal court decisions overturning state SSM bans in numerous states since the famous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States on 2013-JUN-26.

Judge Crabtree's ruling is 49 pages long of which some 39 pages contain a review of previous court rulings on SSM. 9,10

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2014-JUL-10: State trial judge ruled that the Boulder County Clerk can continue to issue marriage licenses:

District Judge Andrew Hartman of Boulder, CO issued a ruling that Clerk Hillary Hall of Boulder County may continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However she must inform the couples in advance that "the validity of their marriages" cannot be assured, and depends upon future court rulings. 9

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2014-JUL-19: Court asks that no additional marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples:

Attorney General John Suthers had asked the Supreme Court to involve itself in the county clerks' decisions to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling ordering the Denver County Clerk and Recorder to stop issuing marriage licence's to such couples. However, the ruling does not apply to the clerks of Boulder County or Pueblo Counties who have also been issuing licenses. 11,12

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2014-OCT-06: U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeal in a Utah case:

By this date, three U.S. Courts of Appeals had issued rulings in four lawsuits that legalized marriages by same-sex couples in five states. One of the Circuit Courts was a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They approved marriage equality in Utah. All four lawsuits were stayed and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a surprise move, the high court declined to hear any of the appeals. This means that the Circuit Courts' rulings were fixed and valid. Marriage equality was attained in Utah.

However, because marriage equality in the 10th Circuit Court is now a matter of law, it is expected to apply to all states over which that Court has jurisdiction: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R) announced that the U.S. Supreme Court's move invalidates his state's voter-enacted law against same-sex marriage. He issued a statement saying:

Once the formalities are resolved, clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples. We will file motions to expedite the lifting of the stays in the federal and state courts and will advise the clerks when to issue licenses.

On the basis of the high court ruling, some country clerks could not wait any longer. The issuing of same-sex licenses resumed in some Colorado counties on OCT-06. 13

That afternoon, the Attorney General issued a letter saying that:

"... the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, the Governor’s Office and the Clerks of Adams, Boulder, Denver and Jefferson Counties filed joint motions to lift stays in the 10th Circuit [Court of Appeals] and Colorado Supreme Court. In addition, the parties moved to dismiss appeals of lower-court decisions in federal court as well as in Adams and Boulder Counties. While the high court’s decision not to hear an appeal of the 10 th Circuit ruling means that same-sex marriage will be legal in Colorado soon, stays put in place by the federal and state courts must first be lifted. ..."

The stay should be dissolved very quickly by the Tenth Circuit and same sex marriage should be legal in Colorado within days," said attorney David Lane in a written statement. 13

The next day, OCT-07, Attorney General issued a statement saying

"There are no remaining legal requirements that prevent same-sex couples from legally marrying in Colorado. Beginning today, Colorado's 64 county clerks are legally required to issue licenses to same-sex couples who request them."

Jordan Steffen & Jesse Paul, writing for the Denver Post, said:

"The Supreme Court also lifted a stay and dismissed an appeal in the state lawsuit challenging Colorado's 2006 voter-approved ban on gay marriage. As a result, Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree's ruling that Colorado's ban is unconstitutional stands.

Shortly before noon, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals removed the last legal issue blocking same-sex marriage in the state. The court lifted a stay in a federal lawsuit filed by six Denver couples. That decision effectively turned an earlier ruling in the case — which also declared Colorado's ban unconstitutional — into law." 14

Marriage equality has come to Colorado, presumably forever. This should be well received by the citizens of the state because a poll by Public Policy Polling during 2014-MAR showed that 56% of voters support marriage equality, while only 36% are opposed. The margin of error was ±4.1 percentage points. Among voters under 45, 71% would like same-sex marriage to be available to same-sex couples, while just 21% preferring that it remain unavailable. 15 Support probably grew about 1 percentage point between the time that the poll was taken and the time that Colorado attained marriage equality.

This development makes same-sex marriages routinely available in 26 states plus the District of Columbia. For the first time in history, marriage equality has been attained by most of the political jurisdictions in the U.S.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Kirk Mitchell and Kurtis Lee, "Nine couples seek to overturn Colorado's gay marriage ban," Denver Post, 2014-FEB-19, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
  2. "One Colorado, Equality Advocates Issue Statement on Marriage Equality Litigation Filed in Denver County," One Colorado, 2014-FEB-20, at: http://www.one-colorado.org/
  3. "CO voters rate marijuana legalization a success, support gay marriage," Public Policy Polling, 2014-MAR-19, at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/
  4. Heather Ginsbert, "Study: Gay Marriage Could add $50 Million to Colorado's Economy," Townhall, 2014-APR-04, at: http://townhall.com/
  5. Christy Mallory & M.V. Lee Badgett, "Estimating the Economic Boost of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Colorado," The Williams Institute, 2014-APR, at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/
  6. Keith Coffman & Daniel Wallis, "Emboldened by Utah ruling, Colorado clerk issues gay marriage licenses," Reuters, 2014-JUN-26, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  7. Ivan Moreno, "Clerk won't stop issuing licenses to gay couples," Associated Press, 2014-JUL-01, at: http://www.sfgate.com/
  8. Dan Frosch, "Colorado same-sex ban taken to court," New York Times, 2014-FEB-14, at: http://www.sfgate.com/
  9. Lyle Denniston, "Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban falls," SCOTUSblog, 2014-JUL-10, at: http://www.scotusblog.com/
  10. C. Scott Crabtree, "District Court, Adams County, Case # 13-CV-32572, 2014-JUL-09, at: http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/
  11. Thomas Hendrick & Dave Young, "Colo. Supreme Court orders Denver County stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses," Fox 31 Denver, 2014-JUL-18, at: http://kdvr.com/
  12. Alan Greenblatt, "Appeals Court Upholds Ruling To Lift Oklahoma Same-Sex-Marriage Ban," National Public Radio, 2014-JUL-18, at: http://www.npr.org/
  13. Brian Rittiman, "Same-sex marriage legalized in Colorado," 9 News, 2014-OCT-06, at: http://www.9news.com/
  14. Jordan Steffen & Jesse Paul, "Colorado Supreme Court, Suthers clear way for same-sex licenses," Denver Post, 2014-OCT-07, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
  15. "CO voters rate marijuana legalization a success, support gay marriage," Public Policy Polling, 2014-MAR-19, at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/

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Copyright 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2013-MAR-12
Latest update: 2014-OCT-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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