Colorado judge backs county clerk over gay marriage licenses

DENVER Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:25pm EDT

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DENVER (Reuters) - A state judge in Colorado on Thursday backed a county clerk who has issued more than 100 marriage licenses to gay couples, and another county clerk in Denver said she would begin issuing the permits.

In a second day of victories for supporters of gay marriage in Colorado, a judge rejected a motion by the state's attorney general seeking to stop Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall from handing out more licenses.

Within hours, the county clerk in the state's biggest city, Denver, also began issuing the licenses.

Noting his decision was part of a "fast-moving legal environment" nationwide, Boulder County District Court Judge Andrew Hartman said the state had failed to meet the high burden of proof required for such a move against Hall, an elected official.

His ruling came less than 24 hours after another state judge struck down Colorado's ban on same-sex marriages, then put that decision on hold pending appeal. [ID:L2N0PK2LW]

"This is a victory for all loving couples wishing to marry," Hall said in a statement.

Emboldened by a landmark U.S. appeals court ruling on June 25 that found in favor of gay marriage in neighboring Utah, she has issued more than 100 licenses to gay couples.

The attorney general's office asked her to stop and then filed the lawsuit.

'LEGAL PATCHWORK'

Attorney General John Suthers said the latest rulings created uncertainty that "cries out" for resolution by the state's highest court.

He said uniformity across the state was essential to avoid confusion caused by differing county-by-county interpretations of whether same-sex marriage is lawful.

"Therefore, we will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming," he said in a statement, without elaborating on his office's strategy.

Attorneys for the state had accused Hall of "flouting" the law, and said Colorado's 63 other county clerks had not interpreted the ruling, now stayed pending appeal, by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the way she did.

When same-sex couples receive the marriage permit, they can choose to get married right away. It is not necessary for anyone to officiate.

Julie Hoehing and Nancy Cooley secured their license and were married in a civil ceremony at the Boulder clerk's office last week. "It's our window," Cooley told Reuters.

It could not immediately be established how many couples who received licenses also decided to take that step.

Debra Johnson, the Denver County clerk, took to Twitter soon after Hartman's ruling was published.

"FINALLY! We can issue #marriage licenses to ALL loving couples here in #CO. Our Office will be issuing licenses till 4:30pm today #equality," she wrote.

As a lesbian couple became the first to receive a marriage permit in Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock gave Johnson his full support.

"I stand proudly with her as we take another step toward marriage equality for every single resident of this great city," Hancock said in a statement.

(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (1)
REnninga wrote:
It seems clear that the time has come, for the Supreme Court of the United States to take a state same gender marriage ban challenge, and put an end to all of this wasted investment of State Courts and District Courts time, litigants and appellants money, and divisive socio-political shouting and hand-wringing, over what is a question of equal rights and equal protections.

The Courts decision ruling against the “Defense Of Marriage Act” (AKA: DOMA) seems strong enough suggestion that the Court is ready to decide that the equal protections clause of the 14th Amendment invalidates the various state bans on same gender marriage.

So let’s just get it over with, already! In a few years the hysteria and furor over what is other peoples personal and private choices of whom they love and wish to bond with in civil marriage, will begin to ebb. Many of those opposed now will begin to modify their views and realize that their own personal values system, religious beliefs and judgments, … should never be allowed, in America, to abridge the equal rights and protections of others, simply because they deem others to be undeserving of those “rights”.

Jul 10, 2014 2:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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