Colo. Couples Sue for Marriage Equality
BY Sunnivie Brydum
February 20 2014 2:05 PM ET
Colorado's voter-approved constitutional prohibition on marriage equality is facing its second legal challenge in state court, reports the The Denver Post.
Nine same-sex couples filed suit in Denver's district court Tuesday contending that the 2006 amendment, which prevents the state from performing same-sex marriages or recognizing those performed in other jurisdictions, violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The challenge names Denver County clerk and recorder Debra Johnson and Colorado governor John Hickenlooper as defendants in their official capacities, and requests a permanent injunction to stop the state from enforcing the antigay law. Colorado enacted civil union legislation last year, but the state constitution prevents marriage equality.
The plaintiffs consist of nine same-sex couples, four of whom are married in other states, while the other five couples wish to marry in their home state of Colorado. Four of the couples are raising children together, reports the Post.
The suit is straightforward about what it believes in an unconstitutional restriction on the fundamental rights of LGBT Coloradans, and repeatedly cites last summer's Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which struck down a key section of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, thereby allowing the federal government to recognize legally performed same-sex marriages.
"Colorado law creates two classes of citizens: those free to marry the person they love, and those denied that fundamental right," says the suit. "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."
Colorado's Republican attorney general, John Suthers, told the Post he intends to defend the voter-approved antigay amendment, while Governor Hickenlooper, a Democrat who actively campaigned to enact civil unions in the state, told the Post, "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."
The suit was filed without the formal endorsement of the statewide LGBT organization, One Colorado, but that group and four other advocacy organizations sent out a joint statement in support of the lawsuit Wednesday.
A similar suit was filed in April 2012 by a lesbian couple in Adams County, Colo., after they were denied a marriage license. Meanwhile, federal judges in Denver are slated to hear two additional challenges to marriage equality prohibitions, in Utah and Oklahoma, when the U.S. 10h Circuit Court of Appeals considers both pending challenges at its Denver location this spring.