Colorado attorney general sues Boulder County clerk over same-sex marriage licenses

DENVER - Colorado's Republican attorney general is following through with his threat to sue the Boulder County clerk for issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

A lawsuit filed Thursday by Attorney General John Suthers is the latest escalation in Colorado's gay-marriage legal fight.

"Regretfully, our office was forced to take action against Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall due to her refusal to follow state law," said Suthers in a statement. "While we would prefer not to sue a government official, Ms. Hall's actions are creating a legal limbo for both the state and the couples whose relationships she wants to champion. That limbo could have tangible and unintended consequences."   

A federal appeals court in Denver ruled last week that same-sex couples have the right to marry. The ruling was put on hold pending appeal.

Boulder County Clerk & Recorder Hillary Hall has been issuing same-sex marriage licenses, despite the stay and warnings from Suthers to stop. Suthers and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have said same-sex marriages should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court settles the marriage question. Colorado's constitution currently bans same-sex marriage.

"The motion we filed yesterday seeks to create a cease fire in the battles over same-sex marriage in Colorado. We created a path forward to efficiently and decisively resolve several ongoing legal proceedings," Suthers explained. "We encouraged Ms. Hall to join us on that path so that she, like her fellow clerks in Denver, Adams, and Jefferson Counties, may be part of the orderly legal process that our system depends upon." 

Boulder County District Judge will hear Suthers' lawsuit on Monday.

The Clerk's Office said a total of 105 same-sex licenses issued since June 25.

Hall issued the following statement regarding the attorney general's filing:

"The Attorney General has filed suit against me in Boulder District Court seeking to force me to violate the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian couples who apply for a marriage license.  Although I've had very little time to review the pleadings filed today, it appears that he is arguing that the constitutionality of Colorado's same sex marriage ban simply isn't relevant.  

"It is unfortunate that our Attorney General is continuing to fight this fight instead of following the example of seven other state attorney generals who have refused to enforce their own state's bans in similar situations. I believe it is a waste of resources for the Attorney General to keep denying people their constitutional right, but that is his prerogative until there is a Supreme Court case squarely addressing the issue. The question now is what public officials like me should do in the meantime.  I think the least harmful and most sensible solution is to issue marriage licenses and avoid the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court.  I hope the court will agree with me."  

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