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Same sex civil unions & same-sex marriages (SSM) in Colorado

Part 6: 2013-MAR to 2014-APR:
Governor signs civil union bill into law.
Same-sex marriage lawsuit filed.

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2013-MAR-21: Governor Hickenlooper signs civil unions bill into law:

At the 3:15 PM ceremony, on the first full day of Spring, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D), who is openly gay, said:

"With the Governor's signature here today, the protection of Colorado's laws will now extend equally to all. Thousands of Colorado families will now be able to receive the recognition they deserve.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Colorado sun now warms all our people."

Rep. Sue Schafer, (D) who is openly a lesbian, said:

"After amendment 2, Colorado was known as 'The Hate State. Today, hate has been replaced by love, family, and equality. Today is historic because our families are stronger, our communities more inclusive, and by expanding equal rights to all Coloradans, our great state is greater.

Rep. Schafer's "hate" reference involves Amendment 2 which modified the Colorado Constitution to prohibit laws that protected the LGBT community from discrimination. It was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.

Senator Pat Steadman (D) chose the location for the Governor's signing. He selected a new state facility at 1,200 Broadway because the word "history" is displayed on the building. Earlier, he also chose the number the bill Senate Bill 11. His partner, Dave Misner, died during 2012-SEP after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was born on MAY-11, and they had been a couple for 11 years. After the bill passed the Legislature, Steadman wrote a poem:

"11 is a prime number.
Eleven is a lovely word.
It's binary; a pair of ones.
It's two like things, bound together,
to make a whole of ones."

Referring to same-sex marriage, Steadman said:

"Bit by bit, we've been making slow and steady progress and some day — not today — some day we're going to win the race,"

After the signing, Speaker Mark Ferrandino said:

"It's really meaningful. To have the recognition of your love and relationship just like any other relationship by the state is an important both legal and symbolic thing." 1,2

Amber Fuentes, 21, of Lakewood, CO plans to enter a civil union with Yolanda Martinez, 34.Amber said:

"It means I can change my name finally. It's not marriage, but it still gives us a lot of the rights."

The Associated Press commented:

"Most Republicans opposed the bill, saying they would've liked to see religious exemptions to provide legal protections for those opposed to civil unions. Churches are shielded under the new law, but Democrats rejected protections for businesses and adoption agencies, arguing the Republican suggestions were too broad and could provide legal cover to discriminate." 3

Effective on MAR-01, same-sex couples should be able to obtain their civil unions in Colorado. This makes the:

  • District of Columbia and nine states that have legalized same-sex marriage, and

  • Nine states that have civil union or similar laws.

Almost 40% of the 51 political jurisdictions in the U.S. now recognize same-sex relationships by giving to same-sex couples all or most of the state's rights and protections that are received by opposite-sex married couples.

According to USA Today, the Colorado civil union law took effect on 2013-MAY-01. 4

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2014-FEB-19: Nine couples file lawsuit to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Colorado:

Nine same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in the federal Denver District Court seeking to extend marriage to same-sex couples. Governor John Hickenlooper (D) and Denver City Clerk Debra Johnson are named as co-defendants.

Governor Hickenlooper said:

"... as a matter of constitutional law, we appreciate that the courts will take it up. On the underlying question of equal rights, we believe Colorado made a step forward when we passed bipartisan civil unions legislation last year.

City Clerk Debra Johnson said:

I believe all adults should be able to marry the person they love regardless of sexual orientation; however, as an elected official, under oath I am sworn to uphold the law as written, even when those laws are in direct conflict with my personal beliefs. I have a lawful duty to administer laws and policies regardless of when they are contrary to my personal beliefs. 5

The lawsuit is based on the usual grounds: the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It requires the federal government and all states to treat people -- and thus couples -- equally. The lawsuit claims that Colorado's ban on same-sex marriages violates that clause. It says:

"Colorado law creates two classes of citizens: those free to marry the person they love, and those denied that fundamental right. "Same-sex couples in Colorado are relegated to a second-class level of citizenship that denies their relationships the full panoply of rights enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples. Even same-sex couples who have been validly married in other states are stripped of their marital status when they enter the state of Colorado. This denial of equal protection, due process, and basic fairness violates the Constitution of the United States of America." 6

Unlike some Attorneys General in other states who declined to defend anti-SSM laws and constitutional amendments, John Struthers (R), Colorado's Attorney General plans to defend the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. He said:

"It is the job of the Attorney General's Office to defend our state laws, and we will defend against this new lawsuit as we would any other."

Attorney Generals in some other states appear to be more aware of the content of their oaths of office. Before AGs take over the job they make a promise to uphold both the state Constitution and the federal Constitution. Unfortunately, to our knowledge, none of the states have built into the oaths of office instructions on what to do when the two constitutions are in conflict. Between mid-2013 and mid-2014, over a dozen state and federal judges have ruled in same-sex marriage cases. All have concluded that state constitutional bans of same-sex marriages violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some AGs, realizing that the federal constitution rules in case of such a conflict, have refuse to defend the same-sex marriage bans in their state constitution. Either AG Struthers has forgotten his oath of office, or feels that the state Constitution trumps the federal Constitution, or has concluded that all of these state and federal judges are wrong.

Dozens of similar lawsuits have been filed in federal District Courts in various states. As of early 2014-APR, only six District Courts have issued rulings. They have included courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia. All have favored SSM.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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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. Lynn Bartels, "Colorado civil unions bill signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper at History Colorado Center," Denver Post, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
  2. Lynn Bartels,"Pat Steadman's gay-rights journey now includes civil unions," Denver Post, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
  3. "Colorado governor signs civil unions into law," Associated Press, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.foxnews.com
  4. Ivan Moreno," Civil unions signed into law in Colorado," USA Today, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
  5. 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/
  6. Sunnivie Brydum, "Colo. Couples Sue for Marriage Equality," The Advocate, 2014-FEB-20, at: http://www.advocate.com/

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Copyright 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2013-MAR-12
Latest update: 2014-JUN-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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