Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson was beaming as she awaited the first couple to walk through the doors.
“It’s so gratifying,” she said. “I’m so excited. I was just talking with someone on the phone, and I said, ‘I didn’t think it would ever happen in my lifetime.’ “
Johnson began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday, just hours after Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Hartman rejected a request by the state to stop the Boulder clerk from continuing to do so. Hartman’s ruling has potentially thrown open the doors as elected county clerks across the state consider whether they will begin issuing the licenses, despite the risk that they may later be declared invalid.
Suthers, who filed the lawsuit against the Boulder clerk’s office, issued a statement that said the issue “cries out for resolution by the state’s highest court.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement that the decision “puts Colorado on the right side of history” and urged the attorney general not to appeal the ruling. He added that if Suthers felt he must appeal, he should go to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall’s office has issued 123 licenses to gay couples since the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Utah ban on same-sex marriages last month. Hartman said the AG’s office failed to prove that Hall’s actions have harmed the couples or the state.
“The State makes assertions that Clerk Hall’s disobedience irreparably harms the people by causing loss of faith in the rule of law,” Hartman said. “However, the State has made nothing but assertions. 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.”
Johnson welcomed Samantha Getman, 33, and Victoria Quintana, 23, at Denver’s Wellington E Webb Building. They were the first of 17 couples who obtained a license Thursday.
“Whether they say it’s invalid or not, we’re married,” Getman said.
Johnson also saw a familiar couple.
Fran and Anna Simon, who have been together for 11 years, arrived with their 7-year-old son, Jeremy. They were the first couple to get their civil union and had a ceremony at the building May 1, 2013.
On Thursday Fran and Anna were first again, as they exchanged vows and signed their certificate, becoming the first same-sex couple to be married and recorded in Denver.
“I’ll love, honor and respect you … be your wife for the rest of my days,” Anna vowed to Fran.
Hall acknowledged that her court battle continues.
Hartman said he was not ruling on the constitutionality of the marriage ban. He also ordered Hall to track all licenses issued to same-sex couples in case another court later invalidates them.
In his statement, Suthers decried “the uncertainty that has been created by these recent Colorado court rulings.”
“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,” he said. “Therefore, we will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming.”
When Hall began issuing same-sex marriage licenses June 25, Johnson had said Denver would hold off until officials felt they had the legal authority to follow suit.
“The decision to deny (Suthers’ request) changed the legal analysis for us,” said Denver City Attorney Scott Martinez.
For now, same-sex couples are filling out marriage license application forms that ask for information on a “bride” and “groom,” at least until Denver’s online system can be reprogrammed in a few days.
Pueblo Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz said Thursday evening that his office would begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses Friday. Other county clerks were considering their options.
“I’m continuing to measure the level of demand and opposition in my own community,” said Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner.
County clerks from El Paso, Weld, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties said they have no plans to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
“We’re not feeling this is legally settled, and we feel it is our job to uphold the law and not interpret the law,” said Ryan Parsell, spokesman for the El Paso County clerk’s office.
Hartman’s ruling came one day after an Adams County District Court judge declared Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.
Judge C. Scott Crabtree said in his 49-page ruling that the state’s ban “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.” But Crabtree also stayed his decision.
Crabtree’s ruling made Colorado the latest in a string of 16 states that have seen their bans tossed out by state and federal judges.
Source: The Denver Post, “Boulder ruling opens doors for same-sex marriage licenses,” By Jordan Steffen, Jon Murray and Kieran Nicholson, Posted: 07/10/2014 10:55:37 AM MDT | Updated: about 4 hours ago