Judge rules Colo. same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, stays decision

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By The Staff

BRIGHTON — The legal war over same-sex marriage in Colorado saw another decision against the law as it stands Wednesday, July 9, as an Adams County judge ruled the state's ban unconstitutional.

While Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree found that the same-sex marriage ban "violates paintiffs' due process and equal protection guarantees under the 14th Amendment," as stated in his ruling, the ruling was stayed pending an appeal.

The challenge to the marriage ban was brought by Rebecca Brinkman and Margaret Burd, who have lived together since 1986 and wished to be married. The couple had sought a marriage license in October 2013 from the Adams County Clerk & Recorder's Office, where they were denied a marriage license and instead offered a civil union license.

Colorado law has banned same-sex marriage since voters in 2006 approved Amendment 43 with 53 percent via statewide referendum. Gov. John Hickenlooper later signed into law the Colorado Civil Union Act, which took effect May 1, 2013.

While Crabtree's decision declared the marriage ban unconstitutional, his ruling also noted that, in his capacity as a judge, a stay in the case would be best as more challenges to same-sex marriage make their way through the judicial system.

"This Court is under no delusion that the resolution of the issue of same-sex marriages will end with this Court’s decision or any lower courts’ decisions. The final chapter of this debate will undoubtedly have to be written in either Denver, Colorado or Washington, D.C.," Crabtree wrote. "While the striking down of laws banning same-sex marriages has been progressing at a rapid rate, it will take time for this issue to be finally resolved. ... the Court finds that a stay is necessary to avoid the instability and uncertainty which would result in the State of Colorado if the Court did not stay its ruling."

That "instability and uncertainty" played out in real life the same day in a Boulder courtroom as Colorado Attorney General John Suthers' suit against Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall had a hearing in front of Judge Andrew Hartman. Hall began issuing same-sex marriage licenses last month following a June 25 ruling in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court against Utah's gay marriage ban. Suthers' contention centers on the fact the Utah ruling was stayed and would thus have no direct effect on the current law on the books in Colorado.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a statement saying the 10th Circuit ruling would be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court rather than opt for a review from the Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.