Colorado on its last month defending marriage ban

DENVER — Last night U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore ruled Colorado’s marriage ban unconstitutional. The decision was in favor of six same-sex Colorado couples, but it won’t immediately get marriage licenses flowing in Denver and Pueblo again. Clerk Hilary Hall continues to issue licenses in Boulder under the protection of a court decision that found what the judge called her civil disobedience to be no serious threat to the state or people of Colorado. 

The state has one month, during which most clerks are advised not to issue same-sex marriage licenses, to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. That court has already overturned similar bans in neighboring states like Utah and Oklahoma.

Attorney Mari Newman, who is part of the legal team representing the six same-sex couples who won last night’s decision in Burns v. Hickenlooper, sent out a release last night emphasizing that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is the primary authority still standing in the way of marriage equality in the state. 

“It is time for him to back down from this losing battle, and allow Colorado to treat all of its families with equity and dignity,” Newman wrote.

As the Human Rights Coalition points out, defending marriage bans does appear to be a losing battle nationwide. Since the federal Defense of Marriage Act was overturned this time last year, 18 federal court decisions in a row have found marriage bans unconstitutional.

The HRC further notes that public opinion has shifted drastically over the last few years. Five years ago fewer than half of Americans polled supported marriage equality, now Gallup finds the figure up 15 points to 55 percent. And while the majority of young people have support marriage equality for quite some time, conservatives and people of faith now appear to be joining them, with 62 percent of Catholics in favor. The HRC notes that 40 percent of Republicans now support gay marriage, the most in history and 16 percent more than two years ago.

“We’ve come a long way from Amendment Two—today’s Order makes clear that equality is a hallmark of our community and fundamental bedrock of our nation,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in a release following the decision yesterday. “We congratulate the plaintiffs and their attorneys, and thank them for making today’s victory possible.”

[A man is arrested after participating in a protest and sit-in for marriage equality at the Denver Clerk’s office in 2009. Photo by Ryan Kendall / Soulforce]