Judge Denies Suthers’ Attempt To Stop Boulder Marriages

UPDATE #6: Pueblo Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz confirms, his office will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples tomorrow morning.

Pueblo County acknowledges marriage equality and will begin issuing licenses at 8 am tomorrow.

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UPDATE #5: GOP Attorney General John Suthers announces his intention to keep fighting, with an appeal of today's ruling denying an injunction against Boulder County to the Colorado Supreme Court:

“It is the view of the Attorney General’s Office that the uncertainty that has been created by these recent Colorado court rulings as to the propriety of county clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses prior to final resolution of the issue, cries out for resolution by the state’s highest court. It is paramount that we have statewide uniformity on this issue and avoid the confusion caused by differing county-by-county interpretations of whether same-sex marriage is currently recognized. Therefore, we will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming.”

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UPDATE #4: Correcting our previous report, Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz has not yet made a decision on issuing same-sex marriage licenses. His office is reviewing today's ruling now. We'll update soon.

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UPDATE #3: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver celebrates as her city begins issuing same-sex marriage licenses:

“Debra Johnson has acted quickly and decisively after today’s court ruling, and I fully support her efforts to offer marriage licenses to every Denver couple who wants to make that commitment. Marriage is challenging yet rewarding, and everyone deserves to have their relationship recognized under the law.

“Personally, I’ve dusted off my Universal Life Minister’s card and look forward to helping couples start their married lives together.”

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UPDATE #2: Outgoing House Speaker Mark Ferrandino:

“Today’s ruling is another step towards legal same-sex marriage in Colorado,” Speaker Ferrandino said. “It is time for Attorney General Suthers to stop blocking loving LGBTQ couples from being protected equally under the law.” 

Judge Hartman’s ruling follows yesterday’s decision by Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruling Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. 

“This ruling comes just one day after Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional,” Speaker Ferrandino said. “Together these two decisions prove that same-sex marriage is inevitable and continuing to argue against it in court is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

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UPDATE: In response to today's court ruling, Denver Clerk Deb Johnson has announced her office will begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses at noon today. Pueblo Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz announces his office will begin issuing same-sex licenses tomorrow morning is reviewing today's ruling as well to determine how to proceed (see update above).

With that, the proverbial wall is really coming down.

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Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall.

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall.

As the Denver Post's Jordan Steffen reports, a huge, if still qualified win today for Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall in her fight against Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

A judge on Thursday said he would allow Boulder's clerk to continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, rejecting a request from Attorney General John Suthers to issue an injunction.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall's office has issued more than 100 licenses to gay couples since the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Utah ban on same-sex marriages.

Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Hartman said in an order issued Thursday that the AG's office did not meet its burden in proving that Hall's decision to issue the licenses creates any kind of harm for the couples or the state.

A key portion of Judge Andrew Hartman's ruling notes that the ultimate validity of same-sex marriages performed by Clerk Hall's office rest on undecided legal questions about her actions. This decision denies the Attorney General's request for a preliminary injunction, ruling that the state did not make the case that Hall's issuing of same-sex marriage licenses amounted to "irreparable harm."

The State is asking this Court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the actions of an elected government official. As such, the State must meet a high burden at this early stage in the litigation. For the reasons set forth below, the State has not met its burden and the Court DENIES the motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. 

As a temporary measure to protect all those affected by this case, the Court adopts the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s recommendation and ORDERS that the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder identify all same-sex marriages and convey the information as part of its routine monthly reporting of nuptials to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Welfare, Center for Health and Environmental Information and Services, as well as to the Boulder County Vital Records Office in order to reduce any risk of irreparable harm. The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder shall forward the information prospectively and has up to and including July 17, 2014 to supply information on past same-sex marriages. These offices shall keep the information confidential.

In addition, as a temporary measure to protect same-sex couples, the Court further adopts the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s recommendation and ORDERS that Clerk Hall provide reasonable notice to prospective and past recipients of same-sex marriage licenses that the validity of their marriages is dependent upon whether a court would find that Clerk Hall had authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Despite that qualifier, no question that this is a major validation for Clerk Hall against Suthers–who appears increasingly isolated in his crusade against the inevitable. Democratic AG candidate Don Quick, who has championed overturning Colorado's Amendment 43 in his campaign, looks highly prescient, while opponent and current chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman inherits Suthers' baggage on the issue. With same-sex marriage bans falling across the nation, Colorado was falling behind the curve largely thanks to our obstinate right-wing Attorney General–until Hillary Hall decided to make her stand.

Whatever happens next, today Clerk Hall is a true hero to this cause.

75 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. rathmone says:

    The real tragedy here is all the gay couples in Pueblo who want to get married but are stranded without any roads to the clerk's office.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      I know, right? I spose we can saddle up the ol' mules so's we can get hitched. Or we could just have a "shotgun" wedding. Folks roun here got lotsa shotguns.

      ^^^^Pueblo and the Springs according to Bloomberg, who needs to get out more^^

  2. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    A judge who is not chickenshit.
    Yea!

  3. The Angry Trucker says:

    99.9% of my fellow Republicans heads just exploded!  Good day for Colorado, and equal rights!

  4. ModeratusModeratus says:

    What in God's name happened to the rule of law in this state? You may get SCOTUS to agree with you, but do you have to tear apart the system to do this? Why not just be patient and wait for the legal process to take its course?

    Clerk Hall is ignoring the law of Colorado. If nothing else, don't ever criticize the sheriffs again!!!

    • Ralphie says:

      Because this wouldn't have gone to court and there would be no decision without Hall's actions.  Case law needed to be made, and now it's made.

      • horseshit GOP front grouphorseshit GOP front group says:

        What in God's name happened to the rule of law in this state ?

        Why wasn't Udall with Obama at the fundraiser ?

        Why didn't Obama tour the border ?

         

        For the love of Jesus, its always about the bullshit questions with your crew Moddy.  In lieu of governing, or doing anything constructive at all for that matter,  our burning questions HAVE TO BE ANSWERED NOW, ABOVE ALL ELSE, ABOVE ALL EFFORTS AND WORK TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS THIS COUNTRY IS FACING.

        If you don't want to witness the continual decline in credibilty in your party, try putting down the pearl clutching and try actually fucking doing something !

        And in closing, BENGHAZI !

      • Here you and I can disagree. No law was made in today's decision, only the statement that the State can claim no harm from the issuance of these certificates. And in that I argue the judge is wrong.

        The legal status of gay marriage in this state is still in limbo, and the harm to the state will be obvious if any of these people attempt to exercise their newfound marriage status in a legal way. Is this marriage certificate recognized in another state? In another county? For any legal joint rights claims?

        I want this done right. Today's ruling is much more of an evasion of the issue than yesterday's stayed ruling and does nothing to clarify the issue.

        • JakobS says:

          Your contention of harm would be valid if possession of these marriage certificates created a unique harm to the state separate from any other married couple, but they do not. Any heterosexual couple can create as much or more harm to the state with a marriage license and certificate as a gay couple, and isn't that the point? They should be equally recognized under the law, and given the same benefits ( good or bad for the state) of such recognition. This is a major reason why Suther's and other state AG's arguments have been shot down so readily by aprox. 26 courts, they cannot establish harm to the state.

    • OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

      Moddy, the Republic still stands, chill out. 

      The Clerks are following the rule of law. They're working under the legal assumption that the Utah ruling applies to Colorado as well, which means our marriage amendment is null and absent the now defunct DOMA, they can issues licenses. Until a higher authority rules otherwise, they're correct. 

      The Sheriffs, on the other hand, have lost their case that the gun bills violate the 2nd Amendment, and yet still refuse to enforce the laws. 

      All hail the king of false equivalencies

       

    • DavieDavie says:

      Moddy, this is the legal process.  An elected official sees an injustice and they act within their powers to correct it.  If another elected officicial disagrees, they can sue.  Guess what, Hall was right, Suthers and Coffman were wrong.  That's our Constitution — the one Republicans take a crap on everyday.

      If you have a problem with how democracy actually works, go to Somalia where you can make your own rules.

      • Um – today's ruling does not say Hall was right. It says Hall is doing something that does not meet the burden of a temporary injunction – i.e. that even if Hall's actions are wrong, they do not burden the state.

        • DavieDavie says:

          Ok, so Hall will be right after Suthers' appeals run out.

        • ModeratusModeratus says:

          Thank you, Phoenix Rising. We won't agree on the issue of gay marriage, but you at least respect the process and teh rule of law. I respect you for that.

          Like I said, if you're about to win, be patient and win honestly. Don't break the justice system to prove your point about injustice.

          • Old Time Dem says:

            Why should gays wait for bigoted fuckheads like you to say its ok to get married before they get to exercise the rights guaranteed to them?

          • The justic system does need to be prodded from time to time in order to provoke lawsuits to correct injustice – though such prodding cuts both ways. That is the history of civil rights, but also the history of violent groups seeking to flout the law.

            Hall's actions were, I think, meant to challenge the Colorado bans based on the 10th Circuit ruling. Instead, the course of justice – and there is blame to go around for Hall, Suthers, and Judge Hartman on this – has left things a muddled mess. Hall should have challenged the ban to the court citing the 10th Circuit ruling rather than attempt to issue licenses of questionable value. Suthers probably should have filed something a bit stronger, as the judge apparently couldn't figure out from the filing that having someone acting apparently against state law was worth an injunction. And the judge probably should have used his position to determine a legal basis beyond "harm" on which to base his ruling, even if that's what was presented to him.

            • gaf says:

              Really, Phoenix? The judge should have based his ruling on somthing beyond the question brought to him? I thought we were only allowing the Supreme Court to do that! (See Citizens United, where SCOTUS went way beyond the question presented to them, overturned prior precedents and wrote new law.)

              • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

                Don't the Repubs call that "legislating from the bench" and don't they pitch a fit and fall in it when such decisions lean left?

              • Not even reaching the basic conclusion of whether Clerk Hall was doing something that was legal under the law and the state Constitution to me says that the judge avoided the very issue that would have determined whether the injunction request was supportable. Either that, or the judge's ruling says that following the rule of law is not so important as to warrant an injunction.

                Further, if this was to be considered a civil rights protest as was claimed, then Hall had made her point and been recognized for her actions, and the legal process that would have ensued from issuing the injunction would have been the remedy. That is how civil disobedience tends to run…

          • BlueCat says:

            Modster, what is happening is the rule of law and your side is going to lose in the very immediate future. The suits are within the system, even Suthers' responses are within the system. But it cannot be dragged out indefinitely and it won't. Very soon, it will be settled just like separate but equal was settled. The tipping point has been reached. Nobody is abusing the law here. This is how it works. Grown ups understand this. It's all over but a little more shouting.

    • Progressicat says:

      I don't know how to say this exactly, but the sheriffs– they were actually wrong.  You see this whole court thingy played out with both Hillary and our constitutional* sheriffs.  The court agreed that the state didn't meet the bar to stop Hillary issuing marriage licenses, but those laws the sheriffs say are unconstitutional?  Yeah, not so much.

      *Not related to any actual constitution– just the imaginary one they believe we should follow.

    • davebarnesdavebarnes says:

      Big difference.
      Gay Marriage does not kill people.
      Guns do.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      Some (not all) Colorado Sheriffs pushed the envelope for the gun head agenda, and they got slapped down by the court, too late to undo all the damage they did in the recalls.

      They allowed themselves to be cynically used by the firearms industry, and now they are stepping up to  give legitimacy to the causes of white supremacy, bigotry, paranoid militias.

      If they had paid a bit more attention to doing their jobs correctly, not been corrupt, or sexually harassing their subordinates, then they wouldn't be embarassing themselves now. So, yeah, I at least will still have plenty to say about some of Colorado's Sheriffs.

      Because helping people who love each other to marry is not morally equivalent to fostering an environment in which people are pushed to arm themselves to the teeth against imaginary threats from brown people.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      Jeez, Moddy…. what're you crying for?

      None of Da Gayz are going to force you to marry them, I promise!

       I had no idea you were such an ardent lover of Big Government and The System….. 

    • Arvadonian1Arvadonian1 says:

      Rule of law?  So far the AG is the only officer who is saying they are ignoring the rule of law.  The judges seem to be siding with the clerk(s)….

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      oh chill…….when adultery was still on the books as a crime, why wasn't Suthers running around seeking to enforce THAT one?

  5. BlueCat says:

    And please leave God's name out of it. 

  6. horseshit GOP front grouphorseshit GOP front group says:

    Today should be Hillary Hall day.  Fucking awesome job !

  7. horseshit GOP front grouphorseshit GOP front group says:

    Just saw that the Denver clerk has just begun issuing licenses.

  8. DenverMom says:

    John Suthers and Cynthia Coffman are on the wrong side of history.  Please stop wasting our money!

     

  9. Ralphie says:

    According to a press release from Suthers' office this afternoon, he's not done tilting at this windmill (at considerable expense to the taxpayers):

    The following statement is to be attributed to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

    “It is the view of the Attorney General’s Office that the uncertainty that has been created by these recent Colorado court rulings as to the propriety of county clerks issuing same-sex marriage licenses prior to final resolution of the issue, cries out for resolution by the state’s highest court. It is paramount that we have statewide uniformity on this issue and avoid the confusion caused by differing county-by-county interpretations of whether same-sex marriage is currently recognized. Therefore, we will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming.”

    • Suthers has this one right. The judge today should have made a ruling on the issue at hand rather than discard the claim for lack of harm.

      • ModeratusModeratus says:

        Again, good for you for being the voice of reason.

      • DenverMom says:

        The decision was on the injunction, not necessarily the underlying case.  In order to get an injunction, the AG had to show harm.

         

      • spaceman65 says:

        He ruled on the motion that was before him.  State failed to meet its burden to prove entitlement to a preliminary injunction.  So he denied.  Judge did exactly what he was supposed on the issue that was before him.

         

        • I'm beginning to wonder whether Suthers is just phoning it in to maintain appearances.

          It would take a reasonable and intelligent person about 10 minutes to put together the basics of a legal argument weighing the harm of uncertainty – state procedural changes, document processing (potentially having to be reversed), legal costs, and personal costs to those getting "married" but finding their certificates challenged… – versus the personal harm of only getting a civil union vs. a marriage until some court eventually rules that Colorado's civil unions must be converted to marriages because they are meant to be a "separate by equal" substitute to marriage in the first place.

          • JakobS says:

            But those " harms" are insignificant to the state, refunding couples if the certificates are found to be invalid is hardly cause to infringe on their constitutional rights, legal and personal costs do not harm the state, but the individual, and hardly any of these couples are going into this blind to the fact that these certificates could be challanged. The cost of Suthers defending this ban is causing greater harm legally and financially to the state than if he would just accept the adams county ruling and be done with it. These couples shouldn't have to settle for a civil union, if the only thing standing in their way is a stubborn AG who wont give up a poorly executed defense of a obviously discrimatory law. 

            • If the state's legal position is that the Colorado bans are still in effect, then the state incurs costs every time one of these marriage certificates is presented for some legal purpose – they must take the time to respond that these certificates aren't valid, and they might (will) be challenged legally as to the validity of the certificates. That is actual harm.

              And although Clerk Hall has been ordered to report these marriages to the state health department, the department workers must find something to do with them other than entering them into the system, because at the state level they won't accept them. They cause confusion at the state level – ie. extra work, and extra money, and therefore financial harm.

              Finally, there is (as Judge Crabtree recognized in his stay on Monday) a presumptive harm whenever an existing law is to be overturned – or in the case of Judge Hartman's ruling, simply ignored because the harm is "insignificant". This harm is separate from other tangible burdens; Hartman downplayed this harm in ways I haven't generally seen in the legal decisions I've decided to look into.

              If you get the idea that I disagree with marriage equality, or that civil unions are the right answer, you're wrong. My disagreement with this ruling is simply and strictly that these marriages may not be legal under the law even if the courts eventually rule in favor of gay marriage in Colorado – and that the results aren't simply a few happy people who know what they're getting in to.

              I want a ruling that says "it's okay" or "stop until the higher courts rule", not "go ahead, but not because it's legal…". Somehow that's too much to ask, though.

  10. It's interesting to compare these two cases and their determination of harm.

    The stay issued yesterday – which most of us would rather have not had happen – was issued because the judge determined there was an obvious harm to the state in overriding the will of the legislature and the people (via the initiative process).

    Today's ruling in contrast fails to see the harm in the issuance of licenses of questionable legal authority.

    Either Suthers did a crappy job in arguing his case in Boulder, or I see an appeal for an injunction coming very soon.

    (Or Suthers could realize he's got multiple inbound cases being ruled against him and give it up peacefully. Or maybe not.)

  11. dustpuppydustpuppy says:

    Can someone please lock up the AG office until next January, saying that there is no more money left for this pathetic continuance of the dead law?

    The ban is dead. The justices saw no clear path or proof that the state has met the burden stating it is harming other people which we all know is simply fucking bullshit.

    Don Quick should be very quickly making ads supporting the LGBT rights to get married, and bashing Cynthia Coffmann's head with it. Repeatedly.

  12. FrankUnderwood says:

    Tim Gill needs to set up an independent "education" committee to educate voters about Cynthia Coffman and what she would bring to the AG's office.

  13. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Dust Puppy wrote: "the ban is dead."  As a traditonal conservative Republican (meaning a conservative with hopefully more than an ounce of common sense), I've always considered the ban on gay marriages in Colorado to be a religious issue. That is, the ban violated the US and Colorado constitutions on imposition of religion and violation of religious liberty from Day One after passage by the voters. I've never quite figured out why persons from the LGBT community never went to court over the matter way back when.

    I have also yet to hear any coherent or rational reason that supports the contention that allowing same sex marriage somehow damages the institution of marriage. Heck, with a divorce rate of somewhere around 50%, we heterosexuals do a good enough job of damaging the institution ourselves.

    Regards,  C.H.B.

    • I think you and I both know that there is no rational reason supporting the marriage ban outside of religious views. But remember – Lawrence v Texas was only a bit over 10 years ago. It's not so long ago that we considered even some sex acts performed by consenting adults in their homes to be illegal on the basis of some underlying "immorality".

      None of the major religions has been strongly supportive of LBGT equality until recently, and the courts do look at the prevalence of a certain set of mores throughout our country when determining what is "religiously based".

      If you're looking for coherent arguments for the contention that LGBT marriages "damage the institution of marriage", or "interfere with the state's interest in procreation", or "family stability", you won't ever find it. That's why so many courts are all of a sudden overturning these bans – the arguments presented before them are laughable.

    • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

      CHB, The rationales heard again and again, ad nauseum have been as follows (with my takedown of each). 1) Marriage is for procreation-we allow the elderly and the sterile to marry. 2) Children are better off with 2 parents.- then change the divorce laws. 3) The people voted for it-people voted for slavery, too. 4) Religion says…- that one gets a stiff arm from the most conservative judges. I'm still waitng to hear a good reason. Ergo, the laws are dropping like flies. 

      • PERA hopeful says:

        Cook, go read Judge Crabtree's decision in the Adams County case.  He quotes from the State's brief and the arguments are mind-numbing.  For example:

        Can a rational person believe that redefining marriage, so as to belittle it to no more than a status symbol or congratulatory certificate, could damage the institution of marriage and its role in helping to encourage heterosexual couples to stay together to raise the children they create?

         

  14. FrankUnderwood says:

     Focus on the Family has been ominously quiet during the past 24 hours.  Terry Maketa should put some clothes on and go over and do a welfare check to make sure they're ok…….

  15. Gray in Mountains says:

    expect a campaign to vote out judges

  16. Progressicat says:

    I don't know enough about Adams, but I say good luck to them in Boulder smiley

  17. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    They may not have actually changed their minds, but they aren't hooking votes with it anymore, either. It's not really worth sermonizing against if it doesn't fire up the reactionaries.                                http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/07/evangelicals-gay-marriage-108608.html#.U8M_5_ldVqE

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