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State of Colorado sues Boulder County clerk over gay marriage

Gay pride flag and US flag
Gay pride flag and US flag
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall in order to stop her from issuing licenses for same sex couples. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled last week that gay couples have the right to marry. The ruling was put on hold, however, pending an appeal.

That hasn’t stopped Hall from issuing the licenses. She has continued to issue the licenses, as gay marriage bans have continually been found to be unconstitutional. Boulder County issued a letter to the attorney general’s office, defending Hall’s actions.

“Clerk Hall is prohibited from knowingly violating an individual’s constitutional rights,” the letter said. “Given all of the other law in this area, the 10th Circuit’s decision to stay its mandate is too fragile a shield to hide behind.”

Colorado’s Amendment 2, approved in 1992, was the state’s first attempt to ban same sex marriage, though it was overturned a few years later at the Supreme Court. That didn’t stop anti-gay activists from pushing another ban on gay marriage in 2006, which was also successful. This ban has yet to be overturned, though it seems to be headed that way.

Governor Hickenlooper, widely known as being unwilling to take a stand on most issues, has again decided to pass the buck. He has asked that nothing be done until after the issue has been decided at a higher court.

But that isn’t stopping Hall from doing what she sees as her job. According to The Coloradoan, nearly 100 licenses were issued by the end of the day on Wednesday.

Same sex marriage is now legal in 19 states, which leaves 31 still opposed to equal status for gays. But with the recent wave of court decisions, and popular opinion on the issue shifting to a more modern and egalitarian view, it seems likely that those numbers will change for the better soon.

As for the request to delay the issuing of licenses, it seems Suthers was ordered to do so by Hickenlooper. Suthers opposes gay marriage, though Hickenlooper has said he supports last week’s decision.

“We understand there is frustration with the lengthy judicial process, but waiting until the legal process is finished will ensure that marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples are not clouded by uncertainty,” said a statement by the governor. “We hope the U.S. Supreme Court will take this matter up quickly. Equality for everyone can’t come soon enough.”