Nine Colorado same-sex couples seeking to marry in the state filed suit today in Denver District Court, with the claim that being denied a marriage license on Feb. 18 in Denver was a violation of their rights.The lawsuit argues that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, passed to the Colorado Constitution by voters in 2006 as Amendment 43, is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. This lawsuit comes on the heels of favorable rulings in Utah, Oklahoma and most recently Virginia, striking those states’ laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.
The lawsuit identifies Gov. John Hickenlooper and Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson as defendants, since both of them are responsible for upholding the existing state law in their jurisdictions, though both Hickenlooper and Johnson personally support extending marriage to lesbian and gay couples.
Neither the plaintiffs nor their lawyers are speaking to media today.
One of the couples in the lawsuit is Arvada couple Wendy and Michelle Alfredsen, whose family has been previously covered in Out Front. The text of the lawsuit states, “Despite believing that these laws are unconstitutional, defendant Johnson, in her official capacity and through her authorized deputy, refused their marriage license application because they are both women. Wendy and Michelle wish to marry in the state of Colorado where they live, and they and their child have been harmed by Colorado’s refusal to allow them to do so.”
While this is not the first litigation challenging Colorado’s law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, it is the first case to do so on such a scale and with such open backing of Colorado LGBT advocacy and policy groups. Five LGBT advocacy organizations in Colorado — One Colorado, the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, the ACLU of Colorado, the Colorado GLBT Bar Association and the Faithful Voices Coalition, released a joint statement in conjunction with the lawsuit.
From the press release:
Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado:
“Just like thousands of other loving, committed couples across Colorado, the courageous plaintiffs who brought forth today’s case simply want to take care of their families and make a lifelong promise to the person they love. We share their goal of achieving marriage equality as quickly as possible, but we also want to ensure that victory endures – which means creating a climate where all Coloradans are free to live openly in their own communities. There’s a difference between having a civil union or marriage license and feeling comfortable enough to put a picture of your spouse on your desk at work. So as this issue moves toward resolution – either by our courts or at the ballot box – it’s critical that we keep building public support for the freedom to marry by talking to Coloradans about why marriage matters to our families. And One Colorado is proud to be doing that work right now, in every corner of our state.”
Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, Executive Director of ACLU of Colorado:
“The American Civil Liberties Union has been working for decades to secure marriage equality throughout the country, including here in Colorado. Over the past few years and especially the last few months, we’ve seen an astonishing and welcome shift toward Americans embracing equality and the freedom to marry. As the country progresses, Colorado’s marriage ban increasingly places our state at a competitive and moral disadvantage. We recognize the courage and resolve of these couples and their attorneys as they pursue, through the courts, the freedom to marry that all Coloradans deserve. And as advocates for full equality, we will continue to facilitate the important conversation across our state about why all families deserve the full dignity and protection that only marriage can provide.”
Mindy Barton, Legal Director of the GLBT Community Center of Colorado:
“The GLBT Community Center of Colorado has been supporting equality for gays and lesbians in this state for almost four decades. As this litigation moves forward, we are proud of the plaintiffs and their attorneys for standing up to show that no one should be treated differently just because of who they are and who they love. In parallel with these efforts, we know it’s vital to keep doing the important work of educating the public and talking to the people of Colorado about why marriage matters to all loving, committed couples – gay and straight alike. And The Center remains dedicated to having that important statewide conversation.”
Kyle Velte, President of the Colorado GLBT Bar Association:
“As an organization comprised of LGBT attorneys and focused on equality, it is inspiring to see this litigation filed. We recognize that litigation is one of several ways to achieve full marriage equality in this state, and we applaud the courage of the attorneys and plaintiffs – some of whom are members of our Association – as they move forward in this important legal fight.”
Jeremy Shaver, Spokesperson for the Faithful Voices Coalition, a coalition comprised of 215 faith leaders and 60 faith-based organizations in support of marriage equality:
“As people of faith, we believe in the Golden Rule – to treat others as we would want to be treated. In light of the litigation filed today, it is important to remember that freedom means freedom for everyone, and none of us should be treated differently just because of who we are. We believe marriage is best defined by love, commitment, and the ability to protect your family – and that is why we support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples across our state.”
Source: “BREAKING: Nine same-sex couples file suit against Colorado same-sex marriage ban,” By Out Front Colorado, February 19, 2014 | 1:26 pm, (Updated: February 19, 2014 | 3:37 pm)