Colorado AG Puts Brakes on Same-Sex Marriage
BOULDER, Colo. (CN) - Colorado's attorney general sued the Boulder County Clerk for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples shortly after the 10th Circuit affirmed a decision striking down a ban on homosexual marriage.
Attorney General John Suthers sued Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall on July 3, in Boulder County Court.
The 10th Circuit on June 25 affirmed a decision from a Utah federal judge who found Utah's ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.
The 10th Circuit stayed its mandate pending an expected petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite the stay, Hall decided that the 10th Circuit's ruling meant she could issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Suthers then sued Hall for injunctive and declaratory relief, claiming she violated a Colorado amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
"On June 25, 2014, shortly after the Tenth Circuit issued its decision concerning Utah's law, Clerk Hall announced that she would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples," Suthers' complaint states. "In particular, Clerk Hall declared:
'I believe the [Tenth Circuit's] opinion is clear and it is important to act immediately. ... Unless a court in Colorado or the U.S. Supreme Court tells me otherwise, I plan to begin issuing licenses.'
"Clerk Hall takes the position that while the Tenth Circuit's decision is applicable to Colorado, the Court's order staying its mandate is not applicable to Colorado.
"Contrary to Clerk Hall's belief, the Tenth Circuit's stay has, in effect, put on hold any application of its decision striking down Utah's same-sex marriage bans. The present situation is no different that if Coloradans voted last week to repeal Colorado's traditional definition of marriage. In that scenario, the voted-for marriage law would not take immediate fact [sic], despite the people's expressed desire for change, and thus, all clerks would have to wait for the new law's effective date to begin issuing licenses." (Citation to newspaper article omitted.)
Colorado's solicitor general tried to stop Hall two days after she made her decision by sending a letter demanding she stop issuing marriage licenses. The solicitor general suggested that Hall and the state jointly file a petition to the Colorado Supreme Court, seeking resolution of the question of Hall's authority to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Hall replied, asking to have until July 10 to respond but decided to continue to issue the licenses.
"On the morning of July 1, 2014, the Solicitor General replied to the Boulder County Attorney by agreeing to the requested extension of time and expressing a willingness to leave open the possibility of pursuing a joint petition to the Colorado Supreme Court under the Colorado Constitution. The Solicitor General, however, stated that the 'additional time, however, cannot be used to continue issuing licenses that do not comply with state law' and demanded that Clerk Hall cease from issuing any further same-sex marriage licenses. The Solicitor General further warned that the State 'will be forced to take legal action' if Clerk Hall 'continue[s] after today,'" according to the complaint.
"Upon information and belief, Clerk Hall and her authorized deputies continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of July 2, 2014, Clerk Hall has issued at least 97 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since June 25, 2014."
Suthers seeks a declaration that all marriage licenses the Hall issued to same-sex couples are invalid and injunction stopping her from issuing any more marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Three pending cases in the Denver metro challenge Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage. Those cases have been filed in U.S. District Court, Adams County and Jefferson County.
Hall is the only County Clerk to have issued same-sex marriage licenses in Colorado.