Updated: 1:30 p.m. MDT
DENVER — Same-sex marriage officially became legal throughout Colorado on Tuesday but, with such unions now on firm legal ground, there was no rush of couples to tie the knot.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers ordered clerks in all of the state’s 64 counties to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after the Colorado Supreme Court lifted previous orders barring clerks in Denver and Boulder from doing so. Those orders were the final obstacles to gay marriage becoming law in the state following the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision on Monday not to hear appeals on the issue from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Colorado.
While some counties not covered by those state Supreme Court orders began issuing licenses Monday and earlier Tuesday, Denver and Boulder, which temporarily issued licenses to over 300 couples after the 10th Circuit ruled against Utah‘s gay marriage ban in June, waited until the court lifted its orders against their clerks from the summer.
Denver clerk Debra Johnson said that equality had won at last.
“After decades of patience, Colorado’s state capitol has finally been given the legal green light to stand with every loving couple,” she said in a statement.
The news means Melinda and Kim Sanchez, who were married using a license from Boulder County on Aug. 15 in a formal ceremony attended by their children, grandchildren and friends, will get to keep that day as their wedding anniversary.
After they got their license, which must be used in 35 days, but before they were married, Boulder County was ordered to stop issuing licenses but clerk Hillary Hall’s office held on to their license and waited for the time when it could be legally recorded in Colorado. The office called and notified them and they came to pick up the stamped certificate in person so it wouldn’t have to be creased and put into an envelope to be mailed.
“This paper may not be much to many people,” Kim Sanchez said.
Melinda Sanchez finished her thought: “It’s worth more than gold.”
Mesa County issued two licenses to gay couples waiting at the clerk’s office when it opened on Tuesday, before the state Supreme Court rescinded its orders against Denver and Boulder.
Like her counterparts in a handful of other counties, including Larimer and Pueblo, Mesa County clerk Sheila Reiner said she didn’t believe she needed to wait for the court to act since Mesa County was never ordered not to issue licenses previously.
She said counties were already ready to accommodate gay couples because the state health department, which records marriage licenses, issued newly designed marriage licenses in July anticipating the likely legal change. Instead of bride and groom, couples are now identified as “party 1” and “party 2”, she said.
“We really did our scrambling yesterday just to finish testing them,” said Reiner, the president of the Colorado County Clerks Association.
Besides the 10th Circuit overturning bans in Utah and Oklahoma, a federal judge in Denver declared Colorado’s 2006 voter-approved gay marriage ban unconstitutional this summer. All those rulings were put on hold awaiting a possible ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Criticism of the new legal reality was muted. Colorado’s Roman Catholic bishops said they were disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s non-action, which they said it would have a “lasting and profound effect on family structure.”
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