Another AG request for delay on marriage equality bites the dust

DENVER — District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree issued an order this morning allowing Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson to continue issuing same-sex marriage licenses despite a request from Attorney General John Suthers for an emergency injunction that would have stopped her.

Johnson began issuing same-sex marriage licenses last week after another ruling, from Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Hartman, found that Boulder  County Clerk Hillary Hall could not be stopped from issuing same-sex marriage licenses despite Suthers’s concerns that she was violating the public’s faith in the rule of law by doing so.

Crabtree disagreed with the Attorney General’s position, calling Hall’s activity an act of civil disobedience and comparing her to historical civil rights leaders. Hall has issued more than 100 marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite court proceedings that left a kind of “wait and see” sticker on pro-marriage equality decisions until a final ruling comes down from the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said attorney Mari Newman, who is representing several same-sex couples in the federal case to overturn same-sex marriage bans in states like Colorado and who filed an objection to Suthers’s request. “There is an absolute tidal wave of legal decisions across Colorado and across the nation saying that these discriminatory laws violate the constitution.”

Used to legal variability, same-sex couples rushed to Johnson’s Denver office when she began issuing the licenses. Pamela Thiele and her partner of 13 years, Lauren Fortmiller, were the last to get a license on Thursday, the first day they were available.

The couple was in a movie when the news was announced, but said they found a deluge of texts and emails waiting for them as the credits rolled.

“We ran several blocks and finally made it, we were the last ones,” said Thiele. “Things change so fast I really wanted to get one the day they opened.”

It’s unclear if the Suthers will continue to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban or request a third injunction against Pueblo Clerk Bo Ortiz, who began issuing the licenses on Friday. The Attorney General’s office did not return calls requesting comment today.

No matter what legal course the Attorney General charts, said Newman, the question of marriage equality is effectively out of the state’s hands and pretty much decided.

“To say the writing’s on the wall doesn’t even capture it,” she said. “The battle has been lost. Suthers is wasting taxpayer money and perpetuating injustice by defending these unconstitutional laws.”

* Update: The AG’s office has now appealed the decisions finding the state’s marriage ban unconstitutional directly to the Colorado Supreme court, instead of the court of appeals, saying they want to resolve the matter quickly.

The State is also asking the Colorado Supreme Court to help provide clarity and uniformity to the state’s officials, county clerks, and citizens, who deserve better than the chaotic legal uncertainty last week’s events have given them,” reads the release.  

[Ben Hauth, left, and partner Jason Woodrich, right, pose with their marriage license at Denver Clerk Debra Johnson’s office, Thursday. Hauth and Woodrich were the first male couple to receive a license in Denver. Photo by Tessa Cheek.]

Correction: The first version of this article misstated the judge who delivered the ruling on Boulder Clerk Hillary Hall’s activities. That judge was Andrew Hartman of the Boulder District Court


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