Colorado County Allowing Same-Sex Marriage Despite Constitutional Ban

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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A Colorado county clerk wasted no time issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in the wake of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a ban on such marriages in Utah, even though the Colorado constitution still prohibits same-sex marriage.

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall made the announcement shortly after the court’s ruling was delivered on Wednesday, and even though her office closed for the day 50 minutes later, she still issued licenses to two lesbian couples, the Daily Camera reported.

She said she believes them to be valid even though the Colorado constitution prohibits gay marriage, which Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said therefore bars the marriages as long as it’s still in effect.

On Wednesday, the federal appeals court struck down Utah’s constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriages and also immediately stayed its decision pending a final verdict by either the 10th Circuit or by the U.S. Supreme Court. A ruling on a similar appeal from Oklahoma is expected soon. (RELATED: Federal Court Strikes Down Utah’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage)

But Hall, who told the Camera she’d gotten legal advice from the county attorney, said the ruling created a precedent that constitutional bans on gay marriage won’t stand. And she said the court’s stay on its decision only applied to Utah, not Colorado, where the appeals court also has jurisdiction.

“We really feel these are legal, valid marriage licenses,” Hall told the Camera. “We wouldn’t issue them if we didn’t.”

The newlyweds included one couple who are among the plaintiffs who have sued to overturn Colorado’s gay marriage ban.

In 2013, the state legislature passed a law allowing civil unions, which are largely the same as marriages in most respects — except in name.

The distinction, however, is important to gay couples, who Hall said have lived for too long as “second-class citizens.”

This isn’t the first time Boulder has wed gay couples. In 1975, then clerk Clela Rorex did the same, according to the Camera, before the state attorney general stopped him.

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, one of just a few openly gay congressmen whose district includes Boulder, told the paper he was happy to see Hall’s actions.

“It’s personally exciting,” Polis said, “to see my hometown and home county follow in the steps of many other states and finally allow this.”

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