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Colo. judge considers Boulder same-sex marriage license fight

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
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Hillary HallBrennan Linsley, AP

Boulder County cerk Hillary Hall congratulates longtime couple Jennifer Knight, left, and Felice Cohen, after Hall granted them a marriage license, inside the offices of the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder, in Boulder, Colo. Hall began issuing licenses a day earlier following a federal appeals court ruling that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

BOULDER, Colo. — Some of the more than 100 gay couples granted marriage licenses in Boulder testified Wednesday during a hearing to determine if clerk Hillary Hall will be allowed to continue issuing the licenses.

Tracey MacDermott said not being allowed to marry has made her feel like a “second-class citizen.” She said she doesn’t believe Hall has harmed her by issuing a license even though the court battle over the fate of gay marriage bans is still playing out.

“We knew the risks going in,” she said on the stand.

A lawyer for Attorney General John Suthers objected to the testimony, saying the proceeding isn’t supposed to be about deciding the merits of gay marriage.

Suthers is suing Hall for ignoring a stay of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Utah’s gay marriage ban. Suthers has maintained that Colorado’s gay marriage ban remains in effect and that the licenses issued by Boulder are invalid.

Judge Andrew Hartman said he’s unlikely to rule immediately but he hopes to issue a decision soon.

The courtroom was packed and some who wanted to watch the proceedings were turned away.

Hall said she is justified by last month’s 10th U.S. Circuit ruling in Denver. A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that Utah isn’t permitted to ban marriages based on gender, though the judges stayed their own ruling pending an appeal by the state of Utah either to the full appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 10th Circuit Court has jurisdiction over six states, including Colorado.

Suthers argues her actions have created “legal chaos.”

“A marriage is only valid in Colorado if it is between one man and one woman,” Suthers said in his lawsuit.

Hall said last week that she would not stop issuing licenses to gay couples.

“I think the least harmful and most sensible solution is to issue marriage licenses and avoid the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court. I hope the court will agree with me,” she said.

About 100 supporters of same-sex marriage rallied outside the Boulder County Courthouse before the hearing. The crowd held signs calling for marriage equality now and chanted “no more hate.”

On the other side of the courthouse entry plaza, a corral roped off for opponents of same-sex marriage was empty.

The Suthers-Hall showdown is separate from two same-sex marriage cases awaiting decisions in state and federal court.

Colorado voters changed the state constitution in 2006 to ban same-sex marriages.

Both Suthers and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have said same-sex marriages should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court settles the question.

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