Moral Low Ground

US Government

Same-Sex Couples Marry In 3 Colorado Counties After Court Rulings

Three Colorado counties are now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.

In declaring the unconstitutionality of Colorado’s prohibition of same-sex marriage, Adams County District Judge C. Scott Crabtree asserted the ban “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.”

“The Court holds that the marriage ban violates the plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution,” wrote Crabtree.

The judge dismissed same-sex civil unions, which legally fall short of marriage, as “further evidence of discrimination against same-sex couples.”

“If civil unions were truly the same as marriages, they would be called marriages and not civil unions,” reasoned Crabtree. “If they were the same, there would be no need for both of them.”

Crabtree immediately stayed his own ruling to “avoid the instability and uncertainty which would result” without such a measure, the Denver Post reports.

Officials in three Colorado counties —Boulder, Denver and Pueblo — are now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall began handing out licenses on June 25 following a ruling from the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Utah’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Colorado responded by suing Hall seeking an injunction to force her to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But on Thursday, Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Hartman ruled that the state had failed to prove its claim that Hall’s actions harm Colorado or the couples, allowing the issuance of licenses to continue.

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said he supported Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson’s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“As a city, we have stood together against injustice and for the rights of all people,” said Hancock. “I stand proudly with [Johnson] as we take another step toward marriage equality for every single resident of this great city.”

In Pueblo County, Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz said he would follow Boulder and Denver counties in issuing marriage licenses to all couples.

“No court has upheld the constitutionality of marriage bans for 23 consecutive rulings,” Ortiz told KKTV. “Denying constitutional rights is an untenable position and I have to respect the Constitution.”

Same-sex couples and LGBT marriage equality advocates celebrated developments.

“I have a feeling I didn’t have an hour ago,” 42-year-old Jason Marsden, who received his marriage license with partner Guy Padgett in Denver, told the Post. “I feel like I exist.”

“Colorado’s our home; we didn’t want to go to some other state,” added Padgett.

“I think it’s great, I think everybody should be able to marry the person they love,” Pueblo resident Andrea Thompson told KKTV. “I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

But not everyone agreed. Fully 55 percent of Colorado voters approved the 2006 ballot initiative amending the state constitution to define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman. While support for LGBT rights has grown over the past decade, with 66 percent of Coloradans now backing same-sex marriage, many people, especially conservatives and evangelical Christians, continue to oppose marriage equality.

Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director for public policy at the anti-gay, conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, accused the county clerks of ignoring the will of the majority.

“Colorado voters followed the law when they passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage in 2006,” Earll said in a statement. “The Boulder clerk is disregarding that law by issuing these licenses. Since when does a county clerk get to decide state law?”

Amidst all the legal celebration and confusion, Judge Crabtree acknowledged that the same-sex marriage debate was not over.

“The final chapter of this debate will undoubtedly have to be written in Denver, Colorado or Washington, DC,” wrote Crabtree in his ruling. “While the striking down of laws banning same-sex marriages has been progressing at a rapid rate, it will take time for this issue to be finally resolved.”

Same-sex marriage equality has indeed prevailed in 23 consecutive challenges to state bans.

Utah has appealed last month’s 10th Circuit Court ruling to the US Supreme Court.

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