Colorado judge to decide on same-sex marriage licenses in Boulder

Colorado judge hears arguments about Boulder clerk's issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples

Attorneys for the Boulder County Clerk's Office and the Colorado Attorney General's Office sparred in district court Wednesday over whether Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall is breaking the law by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Spectators, including couples that received marriage licenses over the last two weeks, packed the courtroom for the 9 a.m. hearing, which lasted three hours.

The lawsuit filed by the state's attorney general asks Boulder County District Judge Andrew Hartman to declare the licenses already issued invalid and to order Hall to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

Hartman said he would issue a ruling shortly, according to attorneys for both sides.

Hall's attorney, David Hughes, told the Los Angeles Times that not only had a line formed to enter the courtroom but that he had never been in a courtroom so full.

Hall began issuing same-sex marriage licenses June 25, the same day the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Utah's ban was unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit includes Colorado, which does not allow same-sex marriage but does recognize civil unions.

The appeals court stayed its ruling, but Hall stood firm, saying the court had affirmed gay marriage and she thus began issuing the licenses.

She issued nearly 100 by the time Colorado Atty. Gen. John Suthers last Thursday filed the lawsuit, asking the court to order Boulder County to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

Michael Francisco, assistant solicitor general for the Colorado Attorney General's Office, repeated that request at Wednesday's hearing.

He argued that Hall was creating a harmful situation for same-sex couples by ignoring Colorado's current ban on gay marriage instead of waiting for higher courts to rule on the issue, according to the Denver Post.

"Colorado isn't asking that anybody's rights be denied," Francisco said.

Suthers had told Hall to stop as of noon last Tuesday, a deadline she ignored. She also rejected his proposed compromise to jointly ask the state Supreme Court to decide whether she had authority to issue the licenses.

Suthers contends that the marriage licenses are invalid as long as the appellate court's stay is in place.

At Wednesday's hearing, Hughes countered by arguing that Hall believed the state's request would require her to violate people's fundamental rights and put the county at legal risk.

He later told The Times he called several witnesses who were in a same-sex relationship to testify about the hardship they faced because they weren’t able to get married in Colorado.

Also on Wednesday, Adams County District Judge C. Scott Crabtree, overseeing a separate lawsuit challenging Colorado's same-sex marriage ban, declared the ban unconstitutional but stayed his ruling.

“Judge Crabtree’s order reaffirms the fact that the fate of Colorado’s same-sex marriage law will rest with the United States Supreme Court,” Suthers said in a statement.

"The county clerks are agents of the state and should be bound by the stay order,” he said.

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