Cheers, caution over gay marriage
Last week’s ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Utah’s ban on gay marriages doesn’t impact Colorado’s law on the subject, at least not yet.
But it’s coming, proponents of gay marriage say.
“I never thought I’d see a day where gay marriage or same-sex marriage or even relationship recognition, I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime,” said Grand Junction resident Heidi Hess, Western Slope field organizer for One Colorado, a Denver-based gay and lesbian advocacy group.
“We as a society got a lot more exposure to gays, and people started coming out and not hiding in the closet or pretending to be something that they weren’t,” she said. “So over time, people realized, this is my sister, this is my brother, this is my aunt or my uncle or close friend. People realized that gay and lesbian folks are all over, and we’re just normal folks.”
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that Utah’s anti-gay marriage law violated constitutional rights of equal protection and due process to same-sex couples.
Although there have been numerous other federal court rulings upholding the rights of gays to marry, the 10th Circuit was the highest court to do so.
But because the court stayed its ruling, pending an appeal to a full panel of the court or to the U.S. Supreme Court, it has no effect in the states that are in the 10th Circuit, which includes Colorado, Attorney General John Suthers said.
“Colorado’s constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriages remains in effect,” Suthers said. “(The ruling) has not gone into effect even in Utah, let alone in Colorado.”
Suthers said that as a warning to Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall, who last week approved giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Suthers said any such license won’t be valid before the eyes of the law.
Still, about 35 same-sex couples were issued licenses so far in that county, including state Sen. Jesse Ulibarri, D-Commerce City.
Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said no such thing will happen here.
“We won’t be issuing anything that may end up being invalid,” she said.
Reiner, who is president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said several clerks in the state are discussing what to do with the issue, but the association is advising them that nothing has changed when it comes to the right of gays to marry.
“We are consulting our association attorneys and clerks are consulting their county attorneys to get a read on this and keep close watch,” she said. “The recommendation is to hold off.”
Colorado allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions because of a law passed by the Colorado Legislature last year.
Hess said that while that civil union law was a good first step, it’s inevitable that gay marriage will be legal soon, too.
She said people’s attitudes toward equal rights for gays have quickly changed in recent years, but it will be some time before full acceptance of gays and lesbians will occur.
“Social change doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen easily. It’s always going to be a work in progress.”