A same-sex couple in Colorado has filed a lawsuit to overturn the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Colorado passed a civil union law earlier this year that confers to same-sex couples most of the benefits and legal obligations as married heterosexuals, but does not designated such unions as marriages.
The Colorado constitution defines marriage as “a union of one man and one woman.”
But now Dr. Rebecca Brinkman and her partner Margaret Burd hope to overturn that provision by showing that it violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection and due process.
The couple’s lawyer told Denver’s 7News that Colorado’s law isn’t fair to gay couples now that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in June.
The ruling requires the federal government to recognize the marriages of same-sex partners who wed in states that allow it, meaning that they would then be eligible for the same federal benefits as married heterosexual couples.
Those include social security survivor benefits and benefits for the spouses of federal employees, as well as other provisions for bankruptcies, immigration and filing of taxes.
“[B]ecause Colorado refuses to allow same gender marriages, these federal benefits are denied to members of a civil union,” attorney Ralph Ogden told 7News.
He said Brinkman and Burd aren’t interested in a civil union because “civil unions are more akin to a business relationship than to the expression of dignity, love, respect and commitment that married heterosexual couples enjoy because they are married.”
Gay couples could enter into civil unions in Colorado as of May 1. Passing the bill was among the top priorities of the Democratic controlled state legislature, which for the first time had an openly gay speaker of the house. The previous year, the Republican speaker refused to bring a similar bill to the floor for a vote, prompting a special session and accusations of dirty politics when the bill was assigned to a committee that killed it.
Despite the previous session’s rancor over the issue, the civil union bill passed without much of the headed rhetoric that characterized many other bills during the session.
Fourteen states allow same-sex marriage while 35 ban it. New Mexico is the only state without a law addressing it either way.
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