On July 9, a Colorado judge struck down the state’s ban on marriage equality on the grounds that it is discriminatory and thus unconstitutional, but stayed his ruling pending appeal.
Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree wrote in his decision, “The Court holds that the Marriage Bans violate plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. 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.”
He also dismissed many of the state’s claims regarding marriage equality, calling its arguments in defense of the ban “post-hoc,” meaning that they were thought up after the ban passed rather than used to justify the ban to begin with. For example, regarding the claims of the ban “encouraging procreation and marital commitment for the benefit of the children,” he wrote, “it utterly ignores those who are permitted to marry without the ability or desire to procreate. It is merely a pretext for discriminating against same-sex marriages.”
Colorado voters passed a ban on marriage equality in 2006, but began providing limited recognition of same-sex couples via designated beneficiary agreements in 2009, and legalized civil unions in May 2013.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican, said in a statement, “Judge Crabtree provides additional clarity that until the high court rules on the issue of same-sex marriage, Colorado’s current laws remain in place.”
He added, “Adherence to the rule of law will bring about the final resolution with the greatest certainty and legal legitimacy.”
When the elected county clerk in Boulder, Hillary Hall, issued over a hundred marriage licenses to gay couples in the state after the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals (which also has jurisdiction over Colorado) ruled that Utah’s ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional, Suthers sued her.
Also on July 9, a hearing was held in the case against Hall. A state attorney accused her of “flouting the law,” according to the Independent Online.
Assistant Solicitor General Michael Francisco testified that the other sixty-three county clerks in the state had acknowledged the appellate court putting its ruling on hold, stating, “Clerk Hall is the only outlier.”
Hall gave a brief testimony in her own defense, in which she repeated her view that she could not in good conscience participate in denying same-sex couples of the right to marry.
Three lesbians also spoke at the hearing, testifying that Colorado’s ban on marriage equality causes gay couples severe difficulties. The examples they gave included the difficulties they face in adopting children, being denied the ability to make medical decisions for partners, and not being able to access federal benefits.
Whether or not the licenses Hall issued will be considered valid is a legal issue for a separate case.
Boulder County District Court Judge Andrew Hartman, who held the hearing against Hall, said that he would issue a ruling “very shortly,” but did not specify further.