Thursday, July 10, 2014

Colorado Marriage Law Struck Down (Decision Stayed); Marriage Licenses Being Issued In Boulder and Denver

Well, well, well! Good things are happening in Colorado regarding marriage equality this week. Just yesterday, a state judge ruled that Colorado's ban(s) on marriage equality are unconstitutional. Colorado enacted a civil unions law last year (doesn't that idea seem quaint now, post-Windsor?) and the judge used its existence as part of his reasoning for why Colorado's marriage laws are discriminatory in his opinion in Brinkman v. Long:

“The Court holds that the Marriage Bans violate plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution."
“The existence of civil unions is further evidence of discrimination against same-sex couples and does not ameliorate the discriminatory effect of the Marriage Bans.”
But wait, there's more! After the 10th U.S. Circuit issued a ruling striking down Utah's marriage law a few weeks ago, the County Clerk of Boulder read the decision (which was stayed pending appeal) and decided to start issuing marriage licenses. In order to get her to stop doing that, the Governor and Attorney General agreed to file a statement with the court that the marriage laws of Colorado are unconstitutional but to agree to wait until a final ruling is issued by the Colorado Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court to issue marriage licenses. However, the judge in that lawsuit ruled in favor of the Boulder County clerk and said she can continue issuing marriage licenses:
Boulder County clerk who has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of Colorado’s gay-marriage ban can continue, a judge ruled Thursday. Boulder County Judge Andrew Hartman decided county clerk Hillary Hall can ignore a federal stay on a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver that states cannot set gender requirements for marriage. The judge said gay marriage is still technically illegal in Colorado but that Hall’s behavior was not harming anyone. But he said all who receive a license should be warned that they could still be invalid if a judge finds after trial that Hall didn’t have the authority to issue them. Hartman also noted that every judge — including one in Colorado the previous afternoon — in the past year has ruled that gay marriage bans are unconstitutional and that Colorado’s prohibition is “hanging by a thread.”

In light of this decision, according to the Denver Post clerks in Denver and Pueblo counties have also started issuing marriage licenses. So, unless a court steps in soon (which at this point would probably have to be the Colorado Supremes) marriage equality is coming to the Centennial State in hours instead of months!

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

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