Gay marriage fight returns to Colorado
It was almost inevitable that Colorado’s constitutional ban on gay marriage would be challenged in court now, given recent legal actions in the U.S. Supreme Court and in other states.
Even so, it is unfortunate, because Colorado has already moved, with the support of leading gay and lesbian groups in the state, to legally recognize gay and lesbian civil unions in the state, and provide couples in such unions with many — but not all — of the benefits of marriage.
We continue to believe that the best solution for our ongoing disputes over marriage would be if federal, state and local governments recognized and enforced only the civil contracts between adults who want to share their lives — whether they be heterosexual or homosexual. Those who want the title of “marriage” and recognition of it should be married before the religious or spiritual organization of their choice.
That, however, is not the direction legal action is taking us. More and more states are legally sanctioning or recognizing gay marriage. The Supreme Court last summer struck down much of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and provided federal recognition to legally married gay couples. The ruling guarantees gay couples the same federal benefits for health insurance, Social Security and taxes as are available to heterosexual couples.
Now, nine gay couples in Colorado are suing to have the 2006 state constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage overturned, arguing that the ban violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage, and court challenges to bans on same-sex marriage are pending in a half-dozen other states. Most notable for Colorado is the fact that a federal judge in Utah overturned that state’s ban on gay marriage late last year.
Roughly 1,000 same-sex couples were married in Utah before the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the federal judge’s decision pending an appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The state of Utah filed its opening arguments in the appeals case earlier this month. Among other things, it claimed that the federal judge in Utah did not give enough weight to the Supreme Court’s decision last June. That decision, while overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, said states had a right to define marriage.
Similar cases are moving forward in Virginia and Oklahoma.
Whatever the outcome in the Utah case, it will establish precedent for Colorado and other states in the 10th Circuit. The plaintiffs in the Colorado case filed this week are no doubt hoping that the appeals court will side with the federal judge in Utah and overturn state bans on gay marriage.
Whatever happens here and in Utah, however, it seems almost guaranteed that the Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in on the issue of gay marriage once more, another indication of our society’s rapidly evolving viewpoints on the issue.