In the Colorado gay marriage saga sparked by the ruling against Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Boulder clerk Hillary Hall is the last holdout still issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
While the case in question took place in Utah, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals also covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and the portions of Yellowstone National Park that reach into Montana and Idaho. Hall—in addition to clerks in Adams, Denver, and Pueblo counties—took the ruling as a prerogative to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Colorado.
However, the Court issued a stay on the ruling until it has gone through an appeal either in the full appellate court or the Supreme Court, meaning that clerks like Hall were acting on grounds that had not yet gone into effect. Although the legality of the licenses is unclear, Boulder’s attorney issued a statement saying, “[Hall] believes the applicants are capable of making their own decisions about the risks involved, and, in the extremely unlikely circumstance that these licenses are invalidated, they can take corrective action. In contrast, the harm caused by a continuing violation of their civil rights could be irreparable.” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper called Hall’s actions a form of civil disobedience, casting her in the American tradition of Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Friday, the Colorado Supreme Court requested that the clerks from Denver and Adams counties stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples (both counties had previously issued a state court challenge to Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban). However, the Supreme Court failed to mention Boulder and Pueblo counties, both of which continued to issue licenses. Pueblo County clerk Gilbert Ortiz tweeted:
The order issued by the Supreme Court is 1 sentence, it specifically identifies the Denver County and Adams County clerk’s.
— Gilbert Ortiz (@Bochefus) July 18, 2014
That changed when Ortiz received a cease and desist letter from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers. Suthers threatened to sue Pueblo County if Ortiz continued. Ortiz announced, “My office is reluctantly ceasing to issue licenses as of this afternoon,” adding, “I believe that AG Suthers is on the wrong side of history.”
This leaves Hall, whom Suthers has also attempted to sue, as the last woman standing. She maintains that she intends to take the “least harmful and most sensible solution” of “[avoiding]the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court.”
Upon opening on Tuesday, Boulder had issued 172 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Tuesday, Denver federal judge Raymond P. Moore is listening to a case brought forth by six gay couples seeking to overturn the Colorado ban on same-sex marriage.