Suthers Finally Gets His Way (Sort Of) In Goal Line Stand Against Marriage Equality

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

As the Boulder Daily Camera's Mitchell Byars reports, the Colorado Supreme Court has put a stop to Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall's issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, finally delivering GOP Attorney General John Suthers a win after numerous embarrassing defeats in lower courts:

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, bringing an abrupt halt to gay marriages in the last Colorado county to allow them…

Jane Culkin, a communications assistant for the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder's Office, said Tuesday afternoon the office reviewed the file and has stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"We are not going to be issuing any more marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the time being," Culkin said.

Hall said in a statement Tuesday she was "disappointed" by the ruling, but she hopes the stay will be brief.

"Given the avalanche of recent cases determining that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, I am hopeful the stay will be short-lived and that we will be able to resume issuing licenses soon," she said.

In the aftermath of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling striking down the state of Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, Boulder Clerk Hall took advantage of admittedly strained legal ambiguity–claiming that the stay immediately issued by the court only applied to Utah–to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After Suthers' first attempt to stop Hall was rebuffed, Denver and Pueblo joined in issuing licenses–and Suthers' next several attempts to stop them in court were unsuccessful. The State Supreme Court's order to Denver to stop issuing licenses a little over a week ago, which Suthers used to force Pueblo to stop issuing licenses even though they weren't technically subject to the order, was the writing on the wall–the state Supreme Court's action yesterday was probably always inevitable.

These events are taking place against the backdrop of what most agree is the end stage of the national battle over marriage equality. With same-sex marriage bans being declared unconstitutional across the nation, the issue is set for final resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court–and the broad emerging legal consensus on the issue strongly suggests the Supreme Court will rule on the side of marriage equality. In the interim, the unresolved court battles have created temporarily messy situations, like the last few weeks of "legal chaos" (Suthers' term) in Colorado.

Assuming that ultimate victory, marriage equality proponents will have the moral high ground–enough to transcend criticism of a legally questionable rationale, since it will be remembered as the right thing to have done. On the other hand, even though Suthers is on legally defensible ground today, he and his office–to include Republican AG candidate Cynthia Coffman–will be remembered as the ones who fought against marriage equality to the end.

Politically, we know which side we'd rather be on.

28 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ModeratusModeratus says:

    You admit that Suthers is right but still say he is politically screwed?

    I'm glad the voters decide things like that and not anonymous Democrat bloggers.

  2. VoyageurVoyageur says:

     I HAVE TO SAY I DON'T THINK a county by county option works, whether the issue is gay marriage or fracking.  We should adopt marriage equality asa state and a nation.  The sooner this gets to Justice Kennedy, the better.

    • ModeratusModeratus says:

      Thank you. Let the court system work, and obey the law as it stands until it changes. Why is that so hard?

      • BlueCatBlueCat says:

        So that's what you'll be saying to the Sheriffs refusing to enforce laws concerning guns, right?  They, after all, don't even have the excuse of numerous court decisions declaring those laws to be unconstitutional so they obviously have even less justification for their refusal to respect the law than the County Clerks do. Glad we've got that all cleared up.smiley

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          What the Constitutional Sheriffs have is the "posse comitatus" Act, which was put in the constitution after the civil war in order to appease southern racist sheriffs, who wanted to be able to lynch and suppress blacks at will post-Reconstruction. 

          The intent was to keep Federal military personnel (National Guard) from coming in to states to enforce state laws. Like the integration of Southern schools – But LBJ disregarded it and sent in the Guard anyway. 

          County Sheriffs are saying that Posse Comitatus makes the County Sheriff the ultimate authority, over a State police officer. I don't see that, either. 

          You legal experts should weigh in, but I see nothing in it that would allow Obama to take anyone's guns awaywink


      • Old Time Dem says:

        Dear Other Right-wing Asshole:

        Your implicit claim that Hall was not obeying the law is patently stupid.  Since Hall won at the district court and Court of Appeals, she obviously had a very strong claim that she was lawfully issuing marriage licenses to same-sex applicants.  Further, the Supreme Court did not say that she had acted unlawfully;  it merely stayed her from issuing more same-sex licenses until it could consider the issues.

        • ajb says:

          Plus, the 10th Circuit Court already ruled that Utah's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional. That ruling applies to Colorado. And that ruling was never stayed in Colorado by the Circuit Court, even though it applies here.

          • That's still a pretty weak argument.

            The 10th Circuit ruling was stayed, and like many circuit court opinions it only ever directly applied to Utah (though the language in it was clear: any challenge of a similar nature would receive the same result). That's why they issued a separate ruling on Oklahoma's gay marriage ban (also stayed).

            Marriage equality is almost inevitable at this point. But legally we haven't jumped through all of the hoops here in Colorado. Hopefully the Colorado Supreme Court gets there before the US Supreme Court. At worst, I suspect given the current state of things that we'll have a nationwide ruling by June 2015.

    • SocialisticatProgressicat says:

      That was an odd portion of the sentence to emphasize. smiley

  3. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    John Suthers will take his place in history (along with A.G.s: Sean Reyes of Utah, Greg Abbott,of Texas and Pam Bondi of Florida) right next to Bull Connor and George Wallace for fightng justice to the bitter end. What a proud legacy

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