BOULDER - A Boulder County clerk began issuing same-sex marriage licenses after a federal appeals court ruled that states cannot prevent gay couples from getting married. But the Colorado attorney general says the licenses are invalid because the court's ruling was put on hold.
The court's decision upheld a lower-court ruling that struck down Utah's gay marriage ban. It becomes law in the six states covered by the 10th Circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. But the panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.
However, the Colorado Attorney General's Office said the licenses will be invalid. A spokesperson for Republican Attorney General John Suthers says the state's Constitutional ban on same sex marriage remains in effect.
Suther's office said the 10th Circuit stay on its ruling means that the defeat of the ban on same sex marriage is not binding in Utah, much less Colorado.
The attorney general does have the option to sue to stop Boulder County but no decision has been made.
Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall said her office will continue to issue the licenses until the court tells her to stop.
"Couples across Colorado have been waiting a long time to have their right to marry the person they love recognized," Hall stated. "I want to act immediately to let them carry out that wish."
Hall sent the following statement:
I am relying on the 10th Circuit's statement that marriage is a fundamental right. Because the Court stayed its mandate, officials in Utah will not have to implement the decision immediately. Even so, I believe the opinion is clear and it is important to act immediately. Colorado's prohibition on same sex marriage has treated our family, friends and co-workers have been treated as second class citizens for long enough. Unless a Court in Colorado or the U.S. Supreme Court tells me otherwise, I plan to begin issuing licenses.
Tracey McDermott and her partner Heather Shockey were second in line at the Boulder County Clerk's office Wednesday afternoon.
"I called her and said 'hey our opportunity's now. Let's go!'" McDermott said. "I was stunned, purely stunned," Shockey said.
McDermott and Shockey say this is just the first step in a long process.
"I think this will mean what it says it means down the road, but there may be a bump in the road along the way," McDermott said.
Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated both the court's ruling and Boulder's decision during a rally in downtown Denver Wednesday night.
Since the clerk's office made the announcement so late, only two couples got their licenses Wednesday. They're expecting a huge crowd Thursday.
This is not the first time the Boulder County Clerk's Office issued a licenses to same-sex couples. Six couples were issued licenses in Boulder in 1975. The licenses were later declared invalid by the state.
The Denver County Clerk's Office said it will not be issuing licenses to same-sex couples based on advice from the city attorney.
Thursday morning, Arapahoe County issued the following statement:
Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder's Office and County Attorney's Office have reviewed the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Utah's same-sex marriage law is in violation of the United States Constitution guarantee of equal protection and due process. Arapahoe County agrees with the analysis of the Colorado Attorney General's Office that, at this time, the ruling was stayed and is not in effect in Colorado. Arapahoe County will continue to uphold Colorado's constitutional provision on same-sex marriage and follow Colorado statute by issuing civil union certificates to same-sex couples. We will abide by any future court rulings that impact Colorado. Any Colorado citizens may apply for a Civil Union License and Certificate at our Arapahoe County Motor Vehicle branch offices in Aurora, Byers, Centennial and Littleton, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. To learn more, please visit www.arapahoegov.com or call our Recording Division at 303-795-4520.
(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)