DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers on Monday asked the state Supreme Court to stop gay couples from marrying in Colorado until it rules on his appeal of a lower court’s ruling last week that found the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Suthers’ appeal puts an endgame in sight to the turmoil that erupted last week when District Judge C. Scott Crabtree became the 16th judge to strike down a gay marriage ban in the past year. Crabtree stayed his order pending appeal, as had a Denver-based federal appeals court that ruled last month that states could not prohibit gay couples from marrying.
On Thursday, one day after Crabtree’s ruling, a Boulder County judge in a separate case rejected Suthers’ effort to stop Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though Colorado’s ban on gay marriage technically remains in effect.
On Monday morning, Crabtree refused to stop the Denver clerk from issuing licenses, saying the stay in his case does not give him the power to order her to halt the service. Hours later, Suthers, a Republican, said that he’d appeal to the Supreme Court to immediately halt the issuance of marriage licenses and, later, review Crabtree’s ruling.
In appealing Crabtree’s ruling to the Supreme Court, Suthers is bypassing the state court of appeals and putting the case on a legal fast-track.
“It appears very likely that, either judicially or politically, Colorado is going to have same-sex marriage,” Suthers said in an interview. “But that is no excuse for abandoning the legal processes by which legal change or political change comes about.”
Article continues belowIn the filing, Suthers says that the clerks’ issuance of “false” marriage documents could be a felony under Colorado law, though he added in the interview that he did not think that any of the clerks had committed a crime.
It’s unknown when the state Supreme Court will hear Suthers’ appeal. Gay rights groups and several Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, had urged him not to appeal Crabtree’s ruling that Colorado’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Hall had based her decision to start issuing licenses on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a lower court’s decision striking down Utah‘s gay marriage ban. That ruling has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no guarantee the high court will take that case, and it could not rule until 2015 at the earliest if it did.
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