The Colorado Supreme Court will consider how same-sex common-law marriages should be recognized and defined in the state in a pair of cases to be argued Wednesday.
The court’s rulings could have a broad impact on how disputes about same-sex common-law marriages are handled for years to come. The current standard for defining common-law marriages in Colorado was established three decades ago.
The justices will consider two cases that raise different but related issues. The first case considers whether common-law same-sex marriages that started before same-sex marriage was legalized in Colorado in 2014 are legitimate, while the second case asks the justices to consider whether the state’s decades-old definition of common-law marriage should be adjusted to better apply to same-sex couples.
Attorneys familiar with the cases said this week that the first issue — whether common-law same-sex marriages that predate marriage equality should be recognized in Colorado — was largely answered in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional and that same-sex couples should be treated the same as heterosexual couples.
“In Colorado, what that means is just as different-sex couples have always had access to common-law marriage, so to should it be with same-sex couples,” said Mark Gibson, an attorney who represented the Colorado LGBT Bar Association and three other organizations in a filing in the case.