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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 11 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 28
Colorado judge strikes marriage ban - Second judge OKs marriage licenses
Section One
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Colorado judge strikes marriage ban - Second judge OKs marriage licenses

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Colorado state judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages in a July 9 ruling.

'The Court holds that the Marriage Bans violate plaintiffs' due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,' Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree said in his ruling.

While Crabtree stayed his ruling pending appeal, a second state judge said county clerks may issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Boulder County District Court Judge Andrew Hartman said on July 10 that County Clerk Hillary Hall can continue to issue licenses to same-sex couples even though same-sex marriage is still technically illegal in Colorado. Her actions do not harm anyone, the judge said, but all who receive a license should be warned that they could still be invalidated if a judge finds that Hall lacked the authority to issue them.

After Hartman's ruling, Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson said she, too, would begin issuing licenses for same-sex couples.

'FINALLY!' she exclaimed on her Twitter account. 'We can issue marriage licenses to ALL loving couples here in CO. Our Office will be issuing licenses till 4:30pm today.'

Civil unions not good enough
In his 49-page decision, Crabtree dismissed the state's claims that existing civil unions satisfied the claims of Gay and Lesbian couples who want the state to recognize their relationships.

'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,' Crabtree wrote.

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

Finally, Crabtree concluded that laws barring same-sex couples from marriage cannot be justified under any legal standard.

'No state since U.S. v. Windsor has been able to justify its ban under even the rational basis test, much less under the strict scrutiny test,' he pointed out.

The case involved nine couples from Denver and Adams Counties who sued the state in February.

'We are ecstatic. There is much cheering in our house,' said Sandra Abbott. She and her partner, Amy Smart, were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. 'We waited a long time for this ruling.'

While plaintiffs celebrated, Crabtree stayed his ruling pending appeal, he said, to 'avoid the instability and uncertainty which would result' if couples began to marry and then his ruling was reversed by a higher court.

Appeals likely
Colorado's Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper opposes the marriage ban, but Republican Attorney General John Suthers supports it and wishes to defend the law in court. Since Crabtree is a Colorado state judge, the appeals track would ultimately go to the Colorado Supreme Court.

At the same time, however, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal court decision striking down Utah's ban on same-sex marriages. The Tenth Circuit also has jurisdiction over Colorado, and Boulder county clerk Hall has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since the circuit court ruled.

In his decision, Crabtree acknowledged that higher courts would have the final decision on the marriage issue.

'The final chapter of this debate will undoubtedly have to be written either in Denver, Colorado or Washington, D.C.,' the judge wrote. '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.'

Why Marriage Matters Colorado applauded Crabtree's decision, and called on the state's Attorney General to drop his defense of the marriage ban.

'Today's ruling, combined with the earlier decision of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, leaves no room for doubt that Colorado's ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional and indefensible,' the group said in a statement.

'With court after court recognizing the freedom to marry, their decision should be a simple and immediate one. We call on Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and the other defendants to let today's historic ruling stand and to drop, once and for all, their defense of Colorado's unconstitutional marriage ban.'

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