Colorado Attorney General John Suthers ordered Colorado’s county clerks to be prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday.
His statement came just hours after news that the Supreme Court would not hear cases from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Suthers is a Republican who has defended the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Gay couples in Colorado will be eligible for marriage licenses in all 64 counties as soon as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals lifts its stay, something that’s expected to happen soon now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear cases on same-sex marriage from five states. This refusal to take up appeals essentially legalizes gay marriage in those states.
Federal appeals courts had ruled that bans against same-sex marriage in those states were unconstitutional, but the courts instituted stays in their decisions pending a ruling from the high court.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, overturned bans in Utah and Oklahoma. Since Colorado is in the same district, Suthers assumed the ruling also applies to Colorado, which has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
“We have consistently maintained that we will abide by the Supreme Court’s determination on the constitutionality of marriage laws,” Suthers wrote in a prepared statement. “By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place. We expect the 10th Circuit will issue a final order governing Colorado very shortly. Once the formalities are resolved, clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples.”
“We will file motions to expedite the lifting of the stays in the federal and state courts and will advise the clerks when to issue licenses,” he said.
Some clerks didn’t wait. According to the Denver Post, a couple in Pueblo was issued a marriage license within hours of the Supreme Court action, but other counties were waiting for final clearance.
The Boulder County Clerk made headlines earlier this year by issuing licenses to gay couples immediately after the 10th Circuit ruled the bans in Oklahoma and Utah unconstitutional, drawing the threat of a lawsuit from Suthers’ office for jumping the gun. Clerk Hillary Hall issued more than 350 licenses before a court-ordered injunction forced her office to stop.
According to The New York Times, the Supreme Court may not feel compelled to step in on this issue unless a federal appeals court rules differently than others that have so far consistently overturned state bans on same-sex marriages.
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