Colorado judge backs county clerk over gay marriage licenses

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 10, 2014 1:19 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A state judge in Colorado on Thursday backed a county clerk who has issued more than 100 marriage licenses to gay couples, and another county clerk in Denver said she would also begin issuing the permits.

In a second day of victories for supporters of gay marriage in Colorado, a judge rejected a motion by the state's attorney general seeking to stop Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall from handing out more licenses.

Within hours, Denver County Clerk Deborah Johnson said her office would start issuing the permits on Thursday too.

Noting his decision was part of a "fast-moving legal environment" nationwide, Boulder County District Court Judge Andrew Hartman said the state had failed to meet the high burden of proof required for such a move against Hall, an elected official.

His ruling came less than 24 hours after another state judge struck down Colorado's ban on same-sex marriages, then put that decision on hold pending appeal.

"This is a victory for all loving couples wishing to marry," Hall said in a statement.

Emboldened by a landmark U.S. appeals court ruling on June 25 that found in favor of gay marriage in neighboring Utah, she has issued more than 100 licenses to gay couples.

The attorney general's office asked her to stop and then filed the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the state had accused Hall of "flouting" the law, and said Colorado's 63 other county clerks had not interpreted the ruling, now stayed pending appeal, by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the way she did. When same-sex couples receive the marriage permit, they can choose to get married right away.

Julie Hoehing and Nancy Cooley secured their license and were married in a civil ceremony at the clerk's office last week. "It's our window," Cooley told Reuters.

It could not immediately be established how many couples who received licenses had also decided to take that step.

Johnson, the Denver County clerk, took to Twitter soon after Hartman's ruling was published.

"FINALLY! We can issue #marriage licenses to ALL loving couples here in #CO. Our Office will be issuing licenses till 4:30pm today #equality," she wrote.

(Additional reporting and writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Peter Cooney)