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Boulder won’t back down on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
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Hillary Hall Clerk of Boulder County Colorado talks to the media during a press conference regarding her office continuing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Boulder, Colo., on Tuesday July 1, 2014. Paul Aiken, AP

Hillary Hall Clerk of Boulder County Colorado talks to the media during a press conference regarding her office continuing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Boulder, Colo., on Tuesday July 1, 2014.

DENVER — Boulder County’s clerk will continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite warnings from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to stop, telling him in a letter Wednesday that failing to give the couples licenses would violate their constitutional rights.

The letter is the latest volley in a legal back-and-forth between County Clerk Hillary Hall, who believes she’s acting legally, and Suthers, who maintains that Colorado’s constitutional ban on gay marriage remains in place until a definitive court ruling on the matter.

Hall began issuing licenses last week after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled in a Utah case that same-sex couples have the right to marry. The ruling was put on hold pending appeal.

However, the letter from Boulder County Attorney Ben Pearlman, written on behalf of Hall, argues they are in the right, citing several court rulings finding gay marriage bans unconstitutional.

“Clerk Hall is prohibited from knowingly violating an individual’s constitutional rights,” the letter said. “Given all of the other law in this area, the 10th Circuit’s decision to stay its mandate is too fragile a shield to hide behind.”

Boulder’s letter was in response to Suthers’ warnings that he would take unspecified legal action if Hall didn’t stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Nearly 100 licenses have been issued.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately issue a reply to Boulder’s letter. Suthers has said the licenses are invalid and that Suthers and Hall should seek guidance from the Colorado Supreme Court on the matter.

Pearlman said they are willing to discuss a possible resolution but won’t negotiate on the condition that Hall stop issuing licenses.

“She believes the applicants are capable of making their own decisions about the risks involved, and, in the extremely unlikely circumstance that these licenses are invalidated, they can take corrective action,” Boulder County’s letter said. “In contrast, the harm caused by a continuing violation of their civil rights could be irreparable.”

Separately, a lawyer for nine couples who are challenging Colorado’s gay marriage ban in state court said Wednesday that the attorney general’s office wants to put the lawsuit on hold while another lawsuit challenging Utah’s ban works its way through federal courts.

A spokeswoman for Suthers didn’t immediately return a call.

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