State high court orders 2 county clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

DENVER - Colorado's Supreme Court has ordered clerks in Denver and Adams Counties to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The state requested the injunction, which was granted Friday, while the high court considered the state's appeal of a ruling issued in District Court in Adams County. That original ruling by Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

Friday's order from the Colorado Supreme Court does not rule on the constitutionality of the state's ban, but orders the clerks to stop issuing the licenses until that part of the case is decided.

The case being appealed by the state was filed by Rebecca Brinkman and Margaret Burd, whose lawsuit said that Adams County Clerk and Recorder Karen Long said "they could not get married to each other because they were both female."

Crabtree's ruling stated that Colorado's ban on the marriage of same-sex couples was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Coincidentally, the ruling was issued on July 9, the 146th anniversary of the adoption of that amendment.

County Clerks in Denver, Boulder and Pueblo Counties have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but only Denver and Adams Counties were named in the Supreme Court's order Friday.

Prior to the ruling, Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson issued 108 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"We have come a long way," Johnson said in a statement after the order was released. "But sadly, the walls of inequality stand strong."

Her statement also said, "The City of Denver is disappointed in the high court’s ruling—and that the Clerk’s Office can no longer issue marriage licenses to every loving couple in the State of Colorado."

The office of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers released the following statement in response to the ruling:

This afternoon the Colorado Supreme Court granted our request to order the County Clerks in the case before them to cease issuing any additional same-sex marriage licenses until the Court has the opportunity to consider the merits of the constitutional challenge to Colorado's marriage laws. This is the same sort of order that nearly every other court in the country has adopted in similar cases. It means Colorado should be in the same situation as Utah, Oklahoma and other states where lower courts have ruled against the laws but an appeal is pending.

"We are pleased the Colorado Supreme Court has begun to restore order to the process of resolving this difficult issue. While we await a final determination of the constitutional question, the Court recognizes that the current laws should be enforced.  The order directly applies only to the clerks in Denver and Adams Counties, because they are involved in the case before the Supreme Court, but the message should be clear enough.  We assume that all the state's clerks will heed the Supreme Court's direction without requiring more wasteful litigation."

The Colorado Supreme Court's order is a temporary one, and it does not reveal anything about how the court might view the ultimate constitutional question. That issue will be presented to the Court quickly.

In addition, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in Bishop v. Smith, another same-sex marriage case arising from a challenge to Oklahoma's marriage law. 

"Today's 10th Circuit decision simply reinforces what we already know from the Circuit's prior decision:  the validity of state marriage laws is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, and when that court rules on the cases that are coming before it, we will finally have the answer for Colorado."

Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz later told KRDO-TV his office will continue issuing the marriage licenses to same-sex couples for now.

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