Denver clerk begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses

First same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license in Denver, Colorado on Thursday, July 10, 2014. (Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post)

The Denver County clerk’s office on Thursday began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, just hours after a Boulder judge rejected a bid by the state to block a similar move there.

The first couple, Samantha Getman, 33, and Victoria Quintana, 23, got their license shortly before 2 p.m. They were far outnumbered by reporters, photographers and activists.

Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson’s decision came after a Boulder County judge said he would allow Boulder’s clerk to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, rejecting a request from Attorney General John Suthers to issue an injunction.

Johnson said on her Twitter account: “FINALLY! We can issue marriage licenses to ALL loving couples here in CO. Our Office will be issuing licenses till 4:30 pm today.”

Earlier Thursday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told Post journalists during a meeting that he would back any decision Johnson made about issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

“As a city, we have stood together against injustice and for the rights of all people,” Hancock said in a statement. “Today, I fully support Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson in her issuing of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who simply want the freedom to be united with the ones they love. I stand proudly with her as we take another step toward marriage equality for every single resident of this great city.”

Just after noon, Denver clerk’s spokesman William Porter said no same-sex couple had yet arrived to apply for a license.

When Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall began issuing same-sex marriage licenses on June 25, Johnson had said Denver would hold off until officials felt they had the legal authority to follow suit.

On Thursday, though, Porter said Johnson decided on a change in course in consultation with city attorneys, following the new Boulder ruling and the outcome of another lawsuit naming Johnson. Couples in Denver and Adams counties challenged the state’s same-sex marriage ban in Adams County court, and a judge ruled Wednesday that the ban is unconstitutional.

But in that case, Judge C. Scott Crabtree issued an immediate stay in his ruling, pending the state’s expected appeal.

The Boulder ruling Thursday gave Denver legal cover, in officials’ view.

“Now, thanks to Clerk Hall’s bravery, we can issue licenses today,” Porter said.

He added: “We view this not only as the legal green light, but we’re thankful that we can finally provide this fundamental right. We’re one step closer to marriage equality, but this is not the end of the journey.”

In the Boulder ruling on a temporary restraining order request, Judge Andrew Hartman wrote that the validity of any marriage licenses issued by the Boulder clerk’s office to same-sex couples was conditional ultimately upon courts finding Hall had the proper authority.

That likely leaves any marriage license issued to same-sex couples in some legal limbo until higher courts rule on the validity of Colorado’s gay marriage ban.

The Denver clerk’s office is on the first floor of the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave.

Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson is ready to hand out marriage license to same sex couples on Thursday, July 10, 2014. (Katie Wood, The Denver Post)
Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson is ready to hand out marriage license to same sex couples on Thursday, July 10, 2014. (Katie Wood, The Denver Post)

Source:  Denver Post, “Denver clerk begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses,” by Jon Murray and Kieran Nicholson, Posted:   07/10/2014 12:12:18 PM MDT | Updated:   24 min. ago

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