Though Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban is technically still in place, two clerks will be granting marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in the Centennial State.
A district judge on Thursday told Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall she could continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because the law forbidding it was “hanging on by a thread.” Less than an hour later, Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson announced she would be doing the same.
According to the Associated Press, Hall had issued marriage licenses to more than 100 same-sex couples since a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals -- which has jurisdiction over Colorado -- overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex nuptials late last month. The 10th Circuit had immediately put its ruling on hold, prompting Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to sue Hall for violating the stay.
District Court Judge Andrew Hartman ruled Thursday in favor of Hall, claiming her behavior wasn’t hurting anyone and pointing to marriage equality’s undefeated record in the courtroom this past year. Less than 24 hours earlier, Colorado’s ban on same-sex nuptials became the latest to fall in federal court, though that judge also put his ruling on hold.
Hartman did warn that licenses given to same-sex couples could wind up being invalid if a court later overrules him. But in Utah, where same-sex marriage was legal for only a brief period, the Obama administration set a precedent of recognizing those unions deemed invalid by the state government.
Colorado is now the 20th state in the nation where gay and lesbian couples can wed. Thursday’s ruling follows a decision out of Utah to appeal the 10th Circuit’s decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. No one knows how -- or even if -- the high court’s justices would rule on same-sex couples’ right to marry, but as Colorado’s clerks are demonstrating, laws standing in the way are fast becoming irrelevant.