Same-sex couples challenge Colorado ban on gay marriage

DENVER Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:12pm EST

Two men, both wearing signs that read ''he's the groom'', hold hands shortly after midnight after getting a civil union when Colorado's civil union law went into effect in Denver May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Two men, both wearing signs that read ''he's the groom'', hold hands shortly after midnight after getting a civil union when Colorado's civil union law went into effect in Denver May 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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DENVER (Reuters) - Nine same-sex couples filed suit on Wednesday challenging Colorado's ban on gay marriage, following a recent string of court decisions striking down similar restrictions in New Mexico, Utah and Virginia.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Denver, says a 2006 voter-passed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as exclusively "a union of one man and one woman" violates U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The suit also takes aim at a civil unions law enacted by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature last year, saying it fails to grant gay and lesbian couples legal status equal to heterosexual couples.

"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," the lawsuit said.

"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," according to the 24-page complaint.

Five of the couples named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are unmarried but are in committed relationships and wish to marry. The four others have been legally wed in other states and their marriages have been reduced to civil unions at home in Colorado.

The lawsuit names Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Denver's county clerk as defendants.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, said his office would defend the gay marriage ban in court, adding, "This is an important issue that the appellate courts will ultimately resolve."

The case in Colorado, a Democratic-leaning state but which also has a conservative political streak, comes at a time of growing momentum toward legalizing gay marriage in the courts, at the ballot box and in statehouses across the country.

Since mid-December, gay rights activists have won a series of court battles in New Mexico, Utah and Virginia, where prohibitions on same-sex marriage were ruled unconstitutional by federal judges. The Utah and Virginia decisions have been stayed pending appeal.

And a federal judge in Kentucky ruled last week that marriages of same-sex state residents who were legally wed elsewhere must be recognized in their home state.

In all, 17 states plus the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage, including eight states where it became legal in 2013.

The trend has gained steam since the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that legally married same-sex couples nationwide are eligible for federal benefits, striking down a key part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

That decision, and a separate ruling paving the way for gay marriage to resume in California, stopped short of extending a constitutional right to marry to same-sex couples.

Some legal experts have said the recent flurry of federal court decisions in favor of gay marriage may hasten Supreme Court consideration of a nationwide right to same-sex nuptials.

More than 30 states still ban gay or lesbian couples from marrying, by constitutional amendment, by statute, or both.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Steve Gorman, Cynthia Osterman and Ken Wills)

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Comments (4)
scottiewestie wrote:
I married my same sex spouse in 2008. After being together for nearly twelve years, he died in 2010. Because we were living in the State of Arkansas at the time of his death, the Social Security Administration has still not paid the death benefits, including unpaid long term disability. This is totally unfair. While the states are still grappling with same sex marriage, our Federal Government has more work to do.

Feb 19, 2014 10:09pm EST  --  Report as abuse
SteveMD2 wrote:
Except for the USA, No. and Catholic Ireland, and Australia, the only generally english speaking nation that doesnt or wont have marriage equality under civil law s is the USA

shame on my country that was also the second to last in the west to end slavery, the only one to need a awar to do it, and then we had segregation for another hundred years

Welcome to conservative religion

Feb 19, 2014 10:33pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Payback wrote:
How can anyone in the US ban anyone getting married? If the Priest, Rabbi, Preacher or whomever is the teacher wants to bring to people together, then let him. If the power is vested in him by the state or by God, by all means, get married. The states need to leave the church alone, period. It should be up to the church and what they believe is right in their Bible. I always believed that it was Adam & Eve, NOT Adam & Steve getting together.

Feb 19, 2014 11:48pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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