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Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban heads to federal court

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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The six couples who filed a federal lawsuit seeking to end the ban on same-sex marriages in Colorado hold a news conference in Denver on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.David Young

Six same-sex couples participate in a news conference in Denver on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, after filing a federal challenge to Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban.

DENVER — Attorneys for six gay couples seeking to overturn Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban will make their case before a federal judge in Denver Tuesday, hoping to add to the favorable court rulings nationwide that have given momentum to their cause.

The couples are asking for an injunction declaring the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, an order that would allow Colorado clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

State Republican Attorney General John Suthers isn’t opposing the injunction. But if the judge blocks the law, Suthers is asking that the ruling be put on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore is hearing the case, and is expected to issue a ruling by Friday.

Mari Newman, one of the attorneys filing suit on behalf of the six couples, said they oppose Suthers’ request for a stay.

“Plaintiffs vehemently oppose the state’s continuing effort to deny their fundamental constitutional right to marry,” Newman said.

The lawsuit alleges the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates due-process and equal-protection rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Colorado voters approved the same-sex marriage ban in 2006, but several recent court rulings have given gay rights advocates hope that the state’s law is on the verge of being overturned.

Clerks in Boulder, Denver, and Pueblo counties have already issued licenses to gay couples after court rulings saying same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. However, the Colorado Supreme Court last week ordered Denver to stop while the state ban remains in place, and the Pueblo clerk stopped on Monday because of that ruling.

The state’s attorney general applauded Pueblo’s decision.

“No matter one’s views on the issue of same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court of Colorado has made clear that until it has had a chance to rule on the merits, clerks must enforce the state’s laws, which are still in effect,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The state Supreme Court ruling did not apply to Boulder’s clerk, however. A district judge ruled in the clerk’s favor this month, allowing same-sex marriage licenses to continue.

Clerk Hillary Hall has issued 172 licenses to gay couples over the past month. She began issuing the licenses in late June after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled on Utah’s ban, saying states cannot prevent people from marrying based on their gender.

Tuesday’s hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MDT. (Updates to follow.)

Follow this case: Burns v. Hickenlooper.

Developing story. This report will be updated.

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