UPDATE: Mistake Found In Attorney General

The Attorney General’s Office has not filed legal briefs opposing same-sex marriage in other states, according to the results of an open records request.

In a document (PDF) released by the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee this month, the office is said to have mentioned in its annual report that it had “defended state laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman against constitutional challenges,” while at the same time it claimed to lack the resources needed to enforce consumer protection laws. It was all a mistake according to Jason Dunn, a spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, who says that there were no briefs filed concerning same-sex marriage and that the information is inaccurate.

The actual 2005 Annual Report from the Attorney General does refer to fighting same-sex marriage, along with filing briefs for issues like “defending the voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools as consistent with the First Amendment.”

In the budget proposal Suthers is requesting 2.5 more employees at a cost of approximately $204,000 for consumer protection.

It was also revealed through the records request that Suthers’ most recent trip to Saudi Arabia was planned through the Governor’s office, although no state resources were reportedly used on the endeavor.

UPDATE: From the open records response:

Per our earlier conversation, I am responding to your CORA request via email.  You asked for copies of any briefs the Attorney General’s office has filed pertaining to same-sex marriage, how many hours were spent working on said briefs, and copies of any such briefs.  Our office has not written any briefs in any cases relating to same-sex marriage issues.  I believe you are referring to the reference in our annual report or budget report that the office was involved as amicus curie in litigation on that issue.

While that statement is correct, our participation involved only giving permission for Colorado’s name to be added to the amicus brief of the State of Indiana in a federal appellate case involving a challenge to the Nebraska marriage law.  As I explained during our phone conversation, the Attorney General’s office receives dozens of requests each year from other states to join briefs that individual states are filing as amicus in federal appellate cases.  When a state law at issue in a case is similar to a Colorado law, the Attorney General, who has a constitutional obligation to defend all Colorado statutes, will typically add Colorado’s name to the brief.  Obviously, because we are only adding our name to the brief of another state, the time and expense of doing so is negligible.

Update: In another update, Rep. Pommer wanted to clarify that he believed that the marriage brief filed was on the request of another state.

12/03/06

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About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

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