Colorado Atty. Gen. John Suthers asked a judge Thursday to order Boulder County to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall responded that he was trying to force her to violate the couples' fundamental rights.
Hall began issuing same-sex marriage licenses last week after 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.
The appeals court stayed its ruling, but Hall said the court had affirmed gay marriage and she thus began issuing the licenses. By Thursday she had issued nearly 100.
Suthers had told Hall to stop as of noon Tuesday, a deadline she ignored. She also rejected his proposed compromise to jointly ask the state Supreme Court to decide whether she had authority to issue the licenses.
"Regretfully, our office was forced to take action against Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall due to her refusal to follow state law," Suthers said in a statement. "While we would prefer not to sue a government official, Ms. Hall's actions are creating a legal limbo for both the state and the couples whose relationships she wants to champion. That limbo could have tangible and unintended consequences."
Suthers contends that the marriage licenses are invalid as long as the appellate court's stay is in place.
Hall responded that the attorney general was "seeking to force me to violate the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian couples," and seemed to be arguing that the constitutionality of Colorado's same-sex marriage ban was irrelevant.
"I believe it is a waste of resources for the attorney general to keep denying people their constitutional right," she continued in a statement, "but that is his prerogative until there is a Supreme Court case squarely addressing the issue. The question now is what public officials like me should do in the meantime. I think the least harmful and most sensible solution is to issue marriage licenses and avoid the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court."
Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman set a hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.