DENVER — Same-sex couples can keep getting married in Colorado, even though the state’s gay marriage ban is still in effect, a judge ruled Thursday.
The decision added to the national confusion over same-sex marriage, as the judge said a county clerk can continue giving marriage licenses to gay couples despite what the state’s attorney general calls “legal chaos” as the issue makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
An hour after the ruling, Denver’s clerk said she would join her counterpart in the liberal college town of Boulder in providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Pueblo County’s clerk said he will begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses Friday morning.
Couples began trickling into Denver City Hall to tie the knot Thursday afternoon.
Anna and Fran Simon rushed to city hall with their 7-year-old son, Jeremy, to wed. “We feel like this marriage license is valid, and that’s how were going to act,” said Fran Simon, 45.
District Court Judge Andrew Hartman’s decision said the Boulder County clerk can ignore a federal stay on a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which found states cannot set gender requirements for marriage.
The judge said gay marriage is still technically illegal in Colorado but that Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall’s behavior was not harming anyone.
“She is apparently taking the position posited by St. Augustine and followed notably by Martin Luther King Jr. that, ‘an unjust law is not law at all,’” Hartman wrote.
However, he warned that the licenses could still be invalid if a court later finds Hall lacked the authority to issue them.
Hartman also noted that every judge who has considered a gay marriage ban in the past year – including one in Colorado the previous afternoon – has found it unconstitutional. He said Colorado’s prohibition is “hanging on by a thread.”
Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson described the news as “awesome.”
“Finally, we can give out marriage licenses to all loving couples,” she said.
Samantha Getman, 33, and Victoria Quintana, 23, were first to receive a license in the state’s largest city.
“We wanted to come down and get it before someone started taking it away from us again,” Getman said shortly after 2 p.m., as she held up her paperwork in front of a bank of TV cameras.