Clerk defies Colorado ban on gay marriage

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Photo: AP Photo/The Daily Camera, Mark Leffingwell ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH: Julie Hoehing and Nancy Cooley embrace while daughter Lia Cooley looks on, after a marriage ceremony July 1 at the county clerk and recorder’s office in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado’s Constitution bans same-sex marriage, but a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver regarding a Utah case said states cannot prevent people from marrying based on their gender. That motivated Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall displayed her independent streak in early July, defying a cease-and-desist order from the Colorado attorney general and continuing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Hall began issuing the licenses to gay and lesbian couples on June 25 after reviewing a decision from the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in Kitchen v. Herbert, an equality case out of Utah.

The appeals court in late June upheld a U.S. district judge’s finding that Utah’s amendment against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The appeals court found that “those who wish to marry a person of the same sex are entitled to exercise the same fundamental right as is recognized for persons who wish to marry a person of the opposite sex.”

Utah officials are challenging the ruling and could take their defense as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, which is why the appeals court issued a stay of its decision.

But Hall said the appeals court opinion is binding on the state of Colorado, which is in the 10th Circuit, along with Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming, plus portions of the Yellowstone National Park extending into Montana and Idaho.

“Couples across Colorado have been waiting a long time to have their right to marry the person they love recognized,” she said.

To date, same-sex couples have filed three lawsuits challenging the state ban on same-sex marriage. And on July 3, the state asked for an injunction declaring the ban unconstitutional. They also requested a stay until the nation’s highest court can rule on the matter, which could come in 2015.

In other developments in the drive for the freedom to marry:

• A federal judge in Kentucky ruled — for a second time — against the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. He stayed his ruling pending appeal.

• A Florida trial court heard arguments against the state’s amendment against same-sex marriage on July 2. A hearing in a second case was set to take place as WiG went to press.

• A federal appeals court on July 1 ordered Indiana to recognize the marriage of a lesbian couple, one of whom is terminally ill, on an emergency basis.

• In preparation for another lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin was reviewing information from same-sex couples who married following a federal district ruling overturning the state’s ban. Some of the couples married. Others were stuck in a waiting period when a stay was issued on June 13. The ACLU also asked the judge to vacate the stay since the state has yet to file its appeal.

As of July 9, there were 76 marriage equality cases filed in 32 states or territories. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages, there have been 22 legal victories for equality.

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