Denver's city clerk begins issuing marriage licenses to gay couples despite ban

DENVER - Denver's city clerk on Thursday began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite Colorado's constitutional ban.

The licenses began almost immediately after Denver Clerk Debra Johnson made her announcement and marriage licenses will be available during office hours until 4:30 p.m.

The first same-sex couple to get the license in Denver was Samantha Gitman, 33, and Victoria Quintana, 23. They said they rushed down to the clerk's office as soon as they heard.

"I didn't even get ready," Quintana said.

"I didn't either ... I put on some clothes and ran down here before (anyone) could say, 'No, you can't get it,'" Gitman said.

She said when she heard the news about the Denver clerk's decision, she thought, "About time."

Johnson, who is gay, said she didn't think this would ever happen in her lifetime.

"It's here. It's finally here," Johnson said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock released a written statement in support of the clerk's decision:

"As a city, we have stood together against injustice and for the rights of all people. Today, I fully support Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson in her issuing of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who simply want the freedom to be united with the ones they love. I stand proudly with her as we take another step toward marriage equality for every single resident of this great city."

-- Judge denies state request to block marriage --

Johnson's decision came after a District Court judge in Boulder on Thursday ruled that the Boulder County Clerk could continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the Attorney General's order to stop.

The judge's ruling did not decide if the licenses were valid or invalid, the judge only denied a state request for an order blocking them.

The order issued in Boulder denied the Attorney General's request to stop the issuing of licenses, but included two temporary measures.

The first instructs the Boulder clerk to identify and report all marriage licenses for same-sex couples to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Welfare, Center for Health and Environmental Information and Services, as well as to the Boulder County Vital Records Office. The second measure instructs the clerk to notify all future and past recipients of the licenses "that the validity of their marriages is dependent upon whether a court would find that Clerk Hall had authority to allow same-sex marriages."

The judge in Boulder County referenced the Wednesday decision issued in District Court in Adams County that called Colorado's ban on same-sex marriages "unconstitutional" and "discriminatory." The order, however, was immediately put on hold pending an appeal to a higher court.

Attorney General John Suthers said  the issue of marriage licenses for gay couples "cries out for resolution by the state’s highest court.

"We will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming," Suthers said.

Boulder's ruling chronicles the rapid series of court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in several states following the Supreme Court's decision overturning California's Proposition 8. The decisions in those cases were based on the "equal protection clause" of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Gov. John Hickenlooper issued the following statement Thursday:

"I remain a strong advocate for marriage equality. The decision on marriage by Judge Crabtree puts Colorado on the right side of history. I have urged the attorney general not to appeal Judge Crabtree's ruling. If he feels he needs to continue to defend this discriminatory law, I urge him to seek final resolution at the Colorado Supreme Court."

 -- Archdiocese responds to judge's decision --

On Thursday the Archdiocese of Denver criticized the district court's decision to overturn Colorado's ban on gay marriage, saying it "advances a misinterpretation of the institution of marriage ... reducing it to a sheer emotional arrangement that can be ... redefined to accommodate the impulses of culture ... As Catholics we have a duty to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman in our laws and policies. We strongly urge all Catholics in Colorado to pray for the preservation of marriage and to pray for our elected officials and judges who are tasked with defending and upholding the laws and constitution of Colorado."

Here's the full statement:

On Wednesday, Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree issued a decision declaring Colorado’s Marriage Amendment unconstitutional, thereby redefining the nature and purpose of marriage in Colorado.  This decision – which he stayed until higher courts decide – advances a misinterpretation of the institution of marriage in modern society; reducing marriage to a sheer emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the impulses of culture.

Marriage and the family are cornerstones of every culture.  Marriage has long been recognized as the lifelong relationship between one man and one woman that allows for the procreation of children; this is consistent with human biology and the natural law.  Upholding the truth about marriage advances the dignity of all people, and it promotes a culture that acknowledges, values and respects the unique and complementary gifts of both a mother and a father in the lives of children.

As bishops representing the Catholic Church in Colorado we are sensitive to the pastoral needs of homosexual persons in our communities, families and churches.  At the same time, our role as Catholic bishops requires that we speak the truth with charity.  We affirm what our Church teaches – namely that we must treat our homosexual sisters and brothers with dignity and love, as we would all God’s children.

The decision issued by Judge Crabtree will likely be appealed and move forward through the courts.  Moving forward the Catholic Bishops of Colorado, working through the Colorado Catholic Conference, will work in partnership with those who seek to uphold Colorado’s Marriage Amendment. 

As Catholics we have a duty to protect and preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman in our laws and policies.  We are called to make this stand because redefining marriage will only further erode the family structure of our society.  We strongly urge all Catholics in Colorado to pray for the preservation of marriage and to pray for our elected officials and judges who are tasked with defending and upholding the laws and constitution of Colorado.

 

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