Colo. Supreme Court Stops Denver's Same-Sex Marriages

The state's highest court ordered Denver to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples but did not address two other counties that have been doing the same.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

July 18 2014 6:53 PM ET

The Colorado Supreme Court Friday granted the state's attorney general's request and ordered Denver county clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reports the The Denver Post

County clerks in Denver had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since July 10, after a state district judge refused to stop neighboring Boulder County from doing the same. The Post reports that 108 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples in Denver. The state Supreme Court did not address the legality of those marriages. 

Colorado's voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree July 9, though the judge placed a stay on that ruling, anticipating the state's appeal. Attorney General John Suthers quickly appealed that decision to the state's highest court, though today's ruling does not address that ongoing case.  

Today's decision from the state Supreme Court comes less than a week after another district judge rejected the state's request to stop Denver, Boulder, and Pueblo counties from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

The Supreme Court's decision did not address a request from several counties seeking clarity about whether they should issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples but instead determined that Judge Crabtree's stay means that Colorado's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage must be enforced. Friday's decision only names Denver County clerk Debra Johnson and Adams County clerk Karen Long as those who may not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, leaving the possibility open that clerks in Boulder and Pueblo counties could continue to issue such licenses, according to the Associated Press.

Suthers, a Republican, has filed several motions aimed at stopping the issuance of marriage licenses in to same-sex couples in Colorado, but today's decision from the state's highest court is the first that has been granted. 

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. Hall told the Post that she plans to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until she is specifically ordered by a court to stop doing so. 

Meanwhile, a federal judge announced Friday that he plans to deliver a ruling on a federal challenge to Colorado's marriage laws by July 25, likely providing greater legal clarity about the current status of same-sex marriage in Colorado. U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore asked the plaintiffs — six same-sex couples — and the defendants — Colorado governor (and marriage equality supporter) John Hickenlooper, Attorney General Suthers, and Jefferson County clerk Pam Anderson — to submit briefs by Friday, and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday,, according to Denver's KMGH.

Aside from the federal case seeking marriage equality and the Adams County case decided by Judge Crabtree, there is a third lawsuit that seeks to establish the freedom to marry in Colorado. That case was filed in February by nine same-sex couples in Denver's district court, who allege that existing state law violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection. That case has not yet been decided, but if a decision arrives in the federal challenge before this case, the lawsuit in state court could become a moot point. 

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