Colo. Counties Can Keep Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Judges around the state are refusing to stop clerks in three counties from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

July 14 2014 3:09 PM ET UPDATED: July 14 2014 8:22 PM ET

A Colorado judge has refused to order Denver officials to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, less than a week after Denver and Pueblo counties began doing so, despite the state constitution's ban on same-sex marriage. 

Immediately after the state judge issued his ruling, Colorado's attorney general, John Suthers, announced his plans to appeal the decision — and several others that have come down in favor of marriage equality in the Centennial State — to the Colorado Supreme Court. 

"The underlying question of whether our laws will stand or fall is now in the Colorado Supreme Court's hands, and we hope it or the U.S. Supreme Court will resolve the question expeditiously," Suthers, a Republican, said in a statement, according to the Denver Post. "We have sought to bring resolution to these issues as quickly as possible, and this is another important step in doing so."

Monday's ruling, from the same judge who last month struck down Colorado's constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions, did not grant the attorney general's request to force Denver county clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as the state appeals the June ruling from Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree, reports The Denver Post

Instead, Crabtree declared that the state had not adequately addressed the need for an injunction against the Denver clerk's actions, noting that the state's request for an injunction and emergency relief differs from the stay Crabtree issued in his ruling on marriage equality, which included Adams County only, not Denver. Writing on behalf of the state, Suthers claimed that an injunction was necessary to protect the "status quo"of marriage law and that the issuance of licenses to same-sex couples has "gravely undermined" the rule of law, but Crabtree rejected these arguments.

"The state has failed to demonstrate … that an actual emergency exists necessitating that an injunction [be entered] immediately," Crabree wrote in Monday's decision. "Further, the issuance of unauthorized marriage licenses was not litigated as part of this case and was not addressed in the Court's Summary Judgment Order."

Denver County clerk and recorder Deborah Johnson, the first out lesbian to hold the elected position that oversees the issuance of marriage licenses, announced last Thursday that her office would begin issuing such licenses to same-sex couples after a different state judge refused to stop neighboring Boulder County from doing the same, citing pro-equality rulings in both federal appeals and state courts.  

Boulder County clerk Hillary Hall began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples June 25, after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver found Utah's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Because the 10th Circuit holds jurisdiction over Colorado, Hall has consistently argued that its ruling declaring marriage a fundamental right and striking down restrictive bans extends to Colorado

Attorney general Suthers, on the other hand, has said the licenses are invalid, and has sought injunctions from state district courts regulating Denver, Adams, and Boulder counties. Thus far, all of those requests have been denied. The state's Democratic governor, who supports marriage equality, signed on to the state's request to delay the further issuance of marriage licenses, but noted in the filing that he believes the state court correctly determined that existing state law is unconstitutional. 

There are currently three cases seeking the freedom to marry in Colorado — the Adams County case, which was decided by Crabtree last month, a second case filed in Denver district court in February, and a federal challenge filed by nine same-sex couples late last month.

Several hundred same-sex couples have received marriage licenses in Colorado — whether they be in Denver, Boulder, or Pueblo county — including at least 200 such licenses issued in Boulder, according to CBSDenver.

The Pueblo County clerk and recorder tweeted this photo Friday, with the first same-sex couple to recieve a marriage license in the Southern Colorado county: 

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