Hickenlooper To Suthers: Stop The Same-Sex Marriage Appeals

UPDATE: Statement from LGBT advocate group One Colorado:

“By calling on Attorney General Suthers not to appeal Judge Crabtree’s ruling striking down Colorado’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, Governor Hickenlooper has shown incredible leadership as a champion for all Colorado families. From the moment he took office, the Governor has stood up for LGBT Coloradans and their families every step of the way: signing legislation to fight bullying and make our schools safer for LGBT youth, calling a special session on civil unions and ultimately signing the bill into law, and lending both his support and his signature to legislation that protects against workplace discrimination and provides tuition equity to undocumented Colorado students – including many LGBT young people. The record is clear.

“As a proud supporter of marriage equality, Governor Hickenlooper joins the 61% of Coloradans who believe that everyone should have the freedom to marry the person they love. With three Colorado counties now issuing marriage licenses to loving, committed couples who want to protect each other and their families, there is no doubt that our state’s discriminatory ban is hanging on by a thread. That thread is Attorney General Suthers, who is the only person left standing in the way of equality for our families. It’s time to move on. It’s time for Attorney General Suthers to stop wasting taxpayer money defending this indefensible ban, and it’s time for the freedom to marry for all Coloradans."


Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General John Suthers and chief deputy AG Cynthia Coffman.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols caught up with a traveling Gov. John Hickenlooper late last night, and obtained by far the strongest statement yet urging GOP Attorney General John Suthers to give up the fight to preserve Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage:

Late Thursday evening, Hickenlooper, who is attending meetings of the National Governors Association in Nashville, told FOX31 Denver that he supports Crabtree’s decision and is urging Suthers not to appeal it any further than the Colorado Supreme Court.

“I remain a strong advocate for marriage equality,” Hickenlooper said. “The decision on marriage by Judge Crabtree puts Colorado on the right side of history.

“I have urged the attorney general not to appeal Judge Crabtree’s ruling. If he feels he needs to continue to defend this discriminatory law, I urge him to seek final resolution at the Colorado Supreme Court.” [Pols emphasis]

It was important for Hickenlooper to get out of the weeds of this issue and clearly take a stand. Now that he's done so, Suthers is in a much more difficult position politically–continuing to fight an unpopular wedge-issue battle against the wishes of the state's chief executive. The political damage this risks extends to Suthers' desired successor as AG, chief deputy Cynthia Coffman. Doing herself no favors, Coffman published an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette today where she defends the state's continuing appeals:

The issue of same-sex marriage divides very good people with strongly held opinions.

Public debates can be contentious and polarizing.

Indeed, it is more difficult to defend laws in the eye of this public policy storm than it is to succumb to personal and political goals.

However, unlike my opponent in the race for attorney general, I do not confuse my policy preferences with my duty to defend laws with which I may disagree. When I chose to run for attorney general, I committed to set aside my opinions of what the law should be in favor of a higher legal system that recognizes the pivotal role of voters and the courts.

Efforts to change the law on same-sex marriage are now moving rapidly but are not yet settled, and until they are, the attorney general has a duty to play his part and defend current Colorado law.

Bottom line: there is a growing possibility that the Attorney General's race this year will have a much higher profile due to the fast-moving issue of same-sex marriage equality–an issue on which Democrats like AG candidate Don Quick took a risk by focusing on early in their campaigns, but now appear to have been brilliant politically as the issue makes headlines and public support increasingly becomes lopsided on the side of marriage equality.

It is an issue that Cynthia Coffman is now wholly on the wrong side of, along with her boss.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Good call by Hickenlooper, even if Suthers seems determined to at least go through the motions until the bitter end.

  2. Moderatus says:

    Cynthia Coffman is right. It doesn't matter if you agree with the law or not, an attorney general has no business picking and choosing which laws to enforce. It was true when Suthers defended your precious gun control laws, and it's true for gay marriage.

    • Davie says:

      Ah, so you also condemn the "Constitutional" Sherriffs refuse to enforce laws that they disagree with!  Right, right?

      If not, please explain the difference other than they also align with your preferences (no to gay marriage, yes to enabling mass murder).

    • Republican 36 says:

      I have to agree with you Moderatus. Except in extreme circumstances that don't exist in the present case, the attorney general's job is to defend the constitutionality of state laws, including the various provisions of the state constitution. AG Suthers is merely doing his job. Everyone is certainly entitled to their own opinion about whether marriage should be extended to gay couples (I think it should be) but none of us should confuse our policy preferences as a rationale for changing the duties and role of public lawyers like Mr. Suthers. 

      Based on the two trial court decisions, it may seem an academic point to some who support gay marriage, but AG Suthers is correct that we need a court decision that applies state wide. That means we need a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court. The lawyers involved should file a joint appeal for both the Adams and Boulder county cases to the Colorado Court of Appeals and then under the rules, file a motion requesting the Colorado Supreme Court take the case. It will be many months before the Supreme Court will hear the case and issue an opinion. I realize that will cause gay couples anxiety and a continuing sense of uncertainty, but in the end, its best if we have a court opinion covering the entire state.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        + 365 !

      • Suthers swore to uphold the US Constitution and that of the State of Colorado, not to faithfully defend even the laws that in his legal opinion are invalid.

        Presumably, Suthers feels that the Colorado bans on gay marriage are Constitutionally valid both at the US and State levels. He is otherwise perfectly free under his oath to ask the courts to officially strike down the laws as being invalid.

        • FrankUnderwood says:

          There actually are grounds for him to decline to defend a lawyer he has reason to believe is unconstitutional.  But doing so in this case would PO his party's base.

        • exlurker19 says:

          Hey PR, didn't Suthers put Colorado into the anti-Obamacare lawsuit, too?  What was he defending then?  And how did that turn out for him?

          Continuing to defend the state's right to discriminate against one group of citizens despite a tide of lawsuits going the other way is puerile at best.  But hey, helps the Dems.  The LBGTQ community is very politically active, IMHO.  And I already stocked up on popcorn.

      • spaceman65 says:

        Appeal should go directly to the CO supreme court.  Court of Appeals lacks jurisdiction in cases where a district court has declared a state statute unconstitutional.


    • BlueCat says:

      Are you kidding modster? There are all kinds of outmoded laws still on the books that everyone from AGs on down chooses not to enforce. As Davie points out you don't seem to have a problem wih Sheriffs refusing to enforce certain laws. So WTF are you talking about?

    • Old Time Dem says:

      Suthers lost.  He is not obliged to appeal every ruling he loses.  Being a dead-ender bigot may be important to him, but the better course would be to recognize that marriage equality is inevitable in Colorado and get the hell out of the way.

      • Ralphie says:

        He might have future political ambitions (LOL@"might")

        • FrankUnderwood says:

          It's ironic because last year, I was trying to figure out who would be a logical candidate for the establishment GOP to run for Guv, and I figured it would be Suthers.  Instead of courting him, they took a stroll memory lane (although it was more like nightmare alley) and put their $$$ on BWB.

          Had Suthers been the GOP nominee now, things would be "interesting."

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        Except that not appealing won't move it to the higher court, which is what is necessary to make this ruling stick — and isn't that what we really want, and end to all this discriminatory nonsense.  Think Brown v. Board of Education would have become the enforceable law of the land without the Supreme Court? — if only a couple of district judges had ever ruled?  

        That's the 'effin process — no one's required to like it or even enjoy that it takes so long, but we damn sure have to go through it to get this finally settled the right way.

        • Old Time Dem says:

          Not really.  Suthers is seeking an injunction to prevent Boulder from issuing marriage licenses, not a decision on whether the Colorado ban on same-sex marriage was constitutional.  Procedurally, the Adams County case is further along.  I suppose the Boulder case could get to the Colorado Supreme Court, which could decide constitutionality without a record, but it would be better if it went to the court with a record.

  3. FrankUnderwood says:

    Now that Hick has weighed in, has BWB taken a stand?  Or is he still too busy counting the number of days in a legislative session……

  4. Diogenesdemar says:

    Seriously Alva ??

    "Brilliant" and "Don Quick" in the same sentence ?????

    . . . well, that'll probably make his parents smile . . .  (I guess it makes me chortle, too.)

  5. Gray in Mountains says:

    Suthers is not just appealing a ruling on a statute but on a constitutional amendment. I do believe he is ethically bound to pursue.

    I also think Hall and other Clerks have also taken an ethical stance

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