Three counties in Colorado are now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a judge ruled that the Boulder County clerk could continue issuing licenses to such couples while the courts considered Colorado's ban on gay marriage.
By the end of the day Friday, 25 marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in Pueblo County and 40 had been issued in Denver County. Boulder County issued 12 more licenses Friday, reaching a total of 135 since Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall began issuing them June 25.
At least six Colorado counties - Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Mesa and Weld - confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that they will not begin issuing licenses despite Boulder County District Judge Andrew Hartman's decision Thursday on Hall's actions.
"No court has upheld the constitutionality of marriage bans for 23 consecutive rulings - at state or federal levels all over the nation. That's significant and can't be ignored," said Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz, who started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Friday morning. "Denying constitutional rights is an untenable position, and I have to respect the Constitution, the courts and move forward."
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said he supported Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson in issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
"As a city, we have stood together against injustice and for the rights of all people," he said. "I stand proudly with her as we take another step toward marriage equality for every single resident of this great city."
Johnson, who is gay, began issuing licenses Thursday almost immediately after Hartman ruled that Hall was not overstepping her authority by issuing the licenses.
State Atty. Gen. John Suthers vowed a swift appeal to the state's highest court on the recent Colorado gay marriage rulings. Thursday's ruling came one day after Adams County District Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled that Colorado's 8-year-old ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. He put his ruling on hold pending an appeal.
"It is paramount that we have statewide uniformity on this issue and avoid the confusion caused by differing county-by-county interpretations of whether same-sex marriage is currently recognized," Suthers said in a statement. "Therefore, we will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming."
Hall began issuing same-sex marriage licenses the same day the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit includes Colorado, which does not allow same-sex marriage but does recognize civil unions.
Although the appeals court stayed its ruling, Hall said the justices had affirmed gay marriage, and she thus began issuing licenses.
The state filed suit against Hall last week, seeking an injunction to force her to stop issuing the licenses and declare invalid about 100 she had already issued. Hartman ruled Thursday that the state had failed to prove its claim that Hall's "disobedience irreparably harms" the state and the couples.
"An alternate public response is that the people of Colorado laud Clerk Hall for her pluck and/or condemn the attorney general for his tenaciousness," Hartman said.
The judge ruled that Hall should report all the same-sex marriage licenses she issues to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Welfare, the Center for Health and Environmental Information and Services, as well as the Boulder County Vital Records Office as a temporary measure to protect "prospective and past recipients of same-sex marriage licenses."
He also said Hall must warn the recipients that the validity of the licenses might be overturned by higher courts. He made it clear that he was not ruling on the legality of the same-sex marriage ban but only on whether Hall was overstepping her boundaries.
"His opinion was very well-reasoned, and we can easily accommodate working with the state to track these licenses," Hall said of the decision. "This is a victory for all loving couples wishing to marry."