Somebody Throw in the Towel for John Suthers, Cynthia Coffman

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

Colorado AG John Suthers and chief deputy Cynthia Coffman keep marching toward the political abyss.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was dealt yet another blow in his ongoing and fruitless quest to defend a same-sex marriage ban in Colorado. From the Denver Post:

Federal and state judges have now declared the law unconstitutional, and Boulder's clerk continues to defy him by issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore rejected Suthers' request to halt proceedings in the case but stayed his decision until 8 a.m. Aug. 25.

That gives Suthers time to appeal Moore's decision to the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals — the same court that found a similar ban in Utah to be unconstitutional less than a month ago.

Moore's ruling marks the fourth time in two weeks that Suthers' efforts have been thwarted by a judge. The attorney general has repeatedly argued that the issuance of licenses continues to stir legal chaos in the state, even though Gov. John Hickenlooper and others have urged him to stop defending the marriage ban.

Lest you might think that Suthers is finally seeing the writing on the wall here, Suthers' office filed yet another appeal with the 10th Circuit less than an hour after yesterday's ruling. As we wrote on Tuesday, Suthers' obsession with defending something that neither the public nor the courts seem to agree with is going to hurt Republican candidates in 2014 — particularly Republican Attorney General candidate Cynthia Coffman, who is Suthers' chief deputy. This entire story is getting even more absurd for Suthers by the day — particularly with news that he has thrown Colorado into another legal challenge over same-sex marriage in Indiana. Really.

From the Indianapolis Star:

The attorneys general of 10 states have joined in Indiana's appeal of a federal judge's ruling that found the state law banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In a filing this week, the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah filed a friend of the court brief alleging it is not the judicial branch's role to determine whether same-sex marriage should be permitted…

…"The only question before the court is whether a rational person can believe that redefining marriage, so as to belittle it to no more than a status symbol or a congratulatory certificate, could damage the institution's longstanding and undisputed role in helping to encourage opposite-sex couples to stay together and raise the children they create" the attorneys general argue. [Pols emphasis]

That sentence above is sadly absurd — rhetoric that is a relic from a much different time in this country. Suthers has been busy filing losing briefs with various courts, so perhaps he hasn't had a chance to check out any of this summer's new TV shows. For example, the reality TV show "Married at First Sight," airing on something called the FYI channel, in which men and women agree to marry each other despite never meeting until the wedding ceremony itself. Because, you know, that doesn't belittle marriage or anything.

We don't see how this ends well for Suthers or Coffman, unless their real goal is to rack up a record number of losses in appeals court. If that's the case, well, good work. Or something.

33 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. denverco says:

    I wonder if he feels that divorce and remarriage redefines marriage or belittles it. The arrogance and ignorance in that statement alone makes him unfit for any office. If gay marriage discourages opposite-sex couples from staying together, then they have deeper problems that they need to discuss.

  2. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    Endlessly defending the indefensible? …hmmm, where have we seen this behavior before? Hey, Elliot….maybe you can explain Suthers' behavior….

  3. Andrew Carnegie says:

    Coffman is way out in front in the AG's race according to the recent Dem PPP poll.

    Why would someone cruising to win an election throw in the towel?

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      Throw in the towel on defending a ban on same-sex marriage, not on the election altogether.

      • Andrew Carnegie says:

        I am pretty sure that call is made by Suthers, the AG, not his deputy, but I suspect you know that.

        If Coffman gets elected it will have ended well for her.

    • It's early for the downballot races. No-one has really taken time to know these candidates yet, and we're in the summer political doldrums right now where no-one is going to take that time.

      There is no way that Wayne Williams is going to wind up with an 8 point lead on election day, for example. At this point the numbers more accurately reflect name recognition and partisan interest than they do the voters' understanding of the options.

      The poll isn't necessarily "wrong" – it's what the respondents said. But I wouldn't go betting your family fortune and future earnings on the outcomes of these races based on a poll at this time of year.

    • dustpuppydustpuppy says:

      Because it's a issue that's very hot and a very losing subject.

      Go on with your continued self-delusion that *ANY* of the Republicans here in Colorado (with a few exceptions to maybe Lamborn and Tipton) are going to be cruising to victory come November. 

      Once your glorious grand old party cleans up the ashes after getting immolated repeatedly in the actual election, it's going to stay a permanent regional minority.


  4. VoyageurVoyageur says:

    They are in a bind.  Strident anti-gay stands turn off general election voters.  But hard-core GOP base loves that stuff.  How do you dial it back without turning off your base?

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      Like any other lawyer does whose client wants them to go to the mat but recognizes they have a weak case.  Blame the system.

      AG's role is to uphold state law.  Court's role is to decide if law is constituional.  The legal system, like the legislative process is messy, but it is the best we have.

      • The AG's role is to uphold the Federal and State Constitutions and only after that to enforce the law. So says his oath of office.

      • dustpuppydustpuppy says:

        It's been ruled unconstitutional several times. There is nothing left to defend in terms of the same sex marriage ban. The federal DOMA was overturned, thus there is nothing to defend.

        It's permanent. Say hello to equality, asshole. Women are next.


        • Old Time Dem says:

          Windsor, the Supreme Court DOMA case, only said that the federal government had to recognize same-sex marriages.  It did not, by itself, invalidate any state laws regarding same-sex marriage.  Further, Windsor only held that a part of DOMA (federal recognition) was unconstitutional;  Part 2 of DOMA, which states that a state does not have to recognize same-sex marriages, was not at issue in Windsor.

          • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

            GLAAD has a good summary of the DOMA law, Sec 2 & 3.

            So am I right that this is the first time that Colorado's 2006 Amendment 43 defining marriage as "one man + one woman" has been seriously legally challenged?

            And Suthers appealing the Federal judge's decision keeps the clerks from issuing licenses at least until the appeal is decided on August 25 or thereabouts?

            I'm just trying to keep it all straight, you should excuse the expression. I could use a timeline.

          • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

            No but now that Federal enforcemnt is dead and with Windsor as precedent the state mini-DOMAs are falling like dominos on straight 14th Amendment grounds. I'm tracking the issue very closely and I ive the mini-DOMAs two years (tops) before SCOTUS strikes them all down.

  5. FrankUnderwood says:

    Someone should keep track of the number of Law Department attorney hours being wasted on this fool's errand, multiply that by $200 and then bill the Republican State Committee and Focus on the Family for the expense.

  6. DenverMom says:

    Vote for Don Quick.


    • Andrew Carnegie says:


      Is that the AG candidate that says he will decide which state laws to defend?

      Kind of like the picking and choosing of which laws to enforce going on in DC.

      Thanks, but no thanks.

  7. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    So the AG's office does its job and defends a law and that is a scandal to some people here?

    Just because an attorney defends a law does not mean he thinks it is good policy. 

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      He is spending MY money on a useless, dead-end, political play with no hope of success. I have the same problem with Gessler. It is OK with you if they continue to throw good money after bad?

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        I'm going to agree, reluctantly and to a point, with EF — elections have consequences, and a majority of the voters in Colorado at the time our mini-DOMA was passed did vote for it. It should be defended until either the voter's recant (come to their senses) or until the law is overturned at the highest levels. 

        Where Suthers is clearly wasting money is in filing amici outside of Colorado, in further support of this nonsense.  That's an inexcusable waste of Colorado resources, as well as a breech of decency. 

        • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

          Being an attorney does not mean you get to choose whether you agree with your client or hold its values. It means you zealously represent your client's interests, within realm of what is ethically permissible, even when you disagree with philosophy behind actions.  If you refuse to do that and as a result prejudice your client's interests then you have done your client a grave misservice and not met your obligations as an attorney.

          • Ralphie says:

            I'll have to agree with Elliot on this one. When my daughter was in high school, she had an opportunity to serve as an "attorney" in Teen Court.  Her client was a kid who had been accused of being a bully.  She gave him a vigorous defense, but in the end, the teen jury came back with an even harsher sentence than what the prosecution asked for.

            She was pretty disheartened, but the judge, a former public defender, took her aside and told her, "As a criminal defense attorney, you rarely get to defend NICE people."

        • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

          So here is question for all of you: if Don Quick is elected does he continue cert petition to Supreme Court on tabor case?

          • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

            Or if the GOP wins next election should new AG simply concede, where possible, that Obamacare is invalid?

          • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

            Phoenix rising is usually correct  on these things – PR said that the CO AG's job (per oath taken) is first to defend Fed and State Constitutions, then state law.

            So yes, that probably does mean at least a minimal defense of TABOR, including continuing cert petition (whatever that is).

            As far as "vigorously defend", I think that the quantity and quality of resources marshalled for any one legal mission should reflect the priorities of the AG. Elections do have consequences. If nothing else, Suthers is teaching us what his priorities are, and they don't align with the modern Colorado electorate.

            • SocialisticatProgressicat says:

              I really don't have heartburn over this, because I think Suthers is making a reasonable call about what he thinks his role is.  However, that doesn't mean it's the only possible call.  Defense of the constitutions can equally as reasonably be interpreted as refusing to undertake actions to defend a law, or an amendment, which the AG believes is self evidently in opposition to other constitutional protections.

              Suthers is not the people's elected chief law officer. His powers, and obligations,are determined by the legislature.  Even that is open to interpretation, though.  CRS 24-31-101(1)(a) says that

              … and shall appear for the state and prosecute and defend all actions and proceedings, civil and criminal, in which the state is a party or is interested when required to do so by the governor, and he shall prosecute and defend for the state all causes in the appellate courts in which the state is a party or interested.

              That doesn't require him to initiate appeals, however, when rulings are against him.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      If there's one thing Elliot is liberal about, it's giving bigots the benefit of the doubt.  He's a helluva guy that way.

    • CaninesCanines says:

      You mean, kind of like when Amendment 2 passed, and Gov. Roy Romer felt compelled to support AG Gale Norton's defense of the anti-gay law? I see that.

      Or when the medical marijuana law, Amendment 20, passed, and Gov. BIll Owens and AG Ken Salazar asked the feds to step in and arrest doctors and patients. Er…

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