The State of Colorado is suing Boulder County to try and stop them from issuing licenses for same-sex marriages. After Utah’s ban on gay marriage was struck down by an appeals court last week the Clerk of Boulder County, Hillary Hall, began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. By the end of day Thursday, Hall’s office had issued 105 such licenses. However, Attorney Genera John Suthers says the intent of the ruling was misinterpreted by Hall, and she should not have seen it as a green light for gay marriage.
Suthers believes Hall erred by relying solely on the ruling of the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Instead, he said she and his entire state should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the validity of the 10th Circuit’s decision on Utah’s same sex marriage ban.
“Until a supreme court decides, we do not have same-sex marriage in Colorado,” he said. Nevertheless, he agreed that the ruling against Utah’s gay marriage ban, if upheld, would also apply to Colorado. Suthers confessed his general preference to not sue government officials but said he believes that Hall’s decision to move forward with handing out the licenses creates “a legal limbo” for the state of Colorado as well as the couples themselves.
Hillary Hall sees Colorado suing to stop same-sex marriages as legally incorrect. “Just because he says something’s not valid, that’s not really how the law works.” She insisted that “it takes a court to say something’s not valid,” pointing out that the ruling from the appeals court actually is the law of the land until and unless the higher Supreme Court says otherwise. In addition to the legal argument Hall also views the same-sex marriage issue from an ethical perspective, saying her actions are the right thing to do.
“We are going to have marriage equality,” said Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. “It’s going to happen soon. Stop delaying it.”
State Senator Pat Steadman agreed. “Let people be married and move on with their lives. I think we will find that the sun will still rise in the east the next day.”
Although Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper expressed his admiration for Hillary Hall’s passion around the same-sex marriage issue he nevertheless stands behind Attorney General Suthers’ decision to sue, preferring also to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the Utah case. Hickenlooper respects the undertaking to which Hall has committed as an act of civil disobedience, yet “I don’t think her actions – again, I’m not a lawyer – are going to accelerate a resolution.”
Hall does not paint herself as an activist. Now that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has said that same-sex couples have a right to marry Hall says that her state is trying to force her to break the law to “violate the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian couples.”
The reasons why Attorney General John Hartman is suing to stop Colorado’s same-sex marriages will be heard on Wednesday by District Judge Andrew Hartman. Although Hall acknowledges that Suthers is within his own rights to pursue legal action, she also was clear that she and her office would not halt the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. She hopes Judge Hartman will agree with her belief, that her course is actually the most sensible option so as to “avoid the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court.”
By Gregory Baskin
The Denver Post
Christian Science Monitor