Supreme Court Won’t Take Up Gay Marriage Appeals; Colorado to Begin Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

POLS UPDATE #4: More reaction, Sen. Mark Udall:

"We are a stronger, better state when all couples are able to publically affirm their shared commitment and responsibilities to one another through marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court's move to let the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in favor of marriage equality stand is a win for all Coloradans," Udall said. "We should celebrate what this will mean for so many of our friends, family members and neighbors. And while this is an important milestone for our state and for other states around the country impacted today, we still have work to do to ensure equality for Americans nationwide."

Udall has been a vocal advocate of striking down misguided laws that discriminate against committed, married gay couples at both the state and federal levels. Udall last year helped to pass in the U.S. Senate the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused to act on the legislation. He also led the successful effort to repeal the harmful and discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

The Colorado House and Senate majorities in a joint statement:

"The Supreme Court's decision to let the lower-court rulings stand vindicates a lot of work by a lot of people over a lot of years," said Speaker Mark Ferrandino, the House sponsor, with Rep. Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge), of the 2013 Colorado law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. 

"It's gratifying that this moment came before my time in the legislature ends," the term-limited Speaker Ferrandino said, "but what really matters is that our state and our country will finally offer equal treatment under the law to all loving couples." 

"We knew this day would come," said Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), who with Senate President Pro Tem Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) were the Senate sponsors of the 2013 law. "The only task left for us is to fix the obsolete Colorado laws now on the books and make them constitutional according to the decisions handed down by the courts, particularly the 10th Circuit." 

"The majority of Americans, and a majority of Coloradans, support marriage equality," Sen. Guzman said. "This is about families, and Coloradans know that families are the backbone of a strong, healthy state. This decision provides further opportunity for all families to succeed under the law." 


POLS UPDATE #3: The Denver Post reports that Pueblo County is now issuing same-sex marriage licenses, the first jurisdiction in Colorado to do so after the Supreme Court's action today.



POLS UPDATE #2: Colorado Attorney General John Suthers concedes the obvious. From the Denver Post:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers on Monday said all 64 county clerks must begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear all appeals on gay marriage bans.

Suthers' announcement is an abrupt and unexpected resolution to the legal battles in Colorado, including the attorney general's previous successful efforts to stop to county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses this past summer…

…"By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place," Suthers said in a statement. "We expect the 10th Circuit will issue a final order governing Colorado very shortly. Once the formalities are resolved clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples."


POLS UPDATE: Our friends over at "The Fix" sum up today's decision quite nicely:

The Court's ruling (or lack thereof) is expected to extend gay marriage to 30 states — and it's easy to imagine a number of other states will follow suit in seeking legalization since there will be no pending legislation in front of the Court to keep them from doing so. Will there eventually be a challenge to the legality of same sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court? Yes.  Does the makeup of the Court make some difference in how that decision turns out? Also, yes. But, by not acting on the current challenges, the Court has allowed the massive momentum in favor of gay marriage to continue. And not just to continue, but to grow.

Original post follows…


(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

What will Colorado's Attorney General do now?

The news out of Washington, DC this morning is that the Supreme Court has denied the appeals from opponents of marriage equality this morning: (AP News blurb). With the announcement, the stays of various Appeals Courts are vacated and gay marriage is now legal in all jurisdictions where appeals courts have found in favor of marriage equality!

AG Suthers said he wanted the courts to wait until a decision was handed down by the Supreme Court. This is the decision: the Appeals Courts are unanimous so far – gay marriage is a fundamental right! Will Suthers abide by the decision and ask for his stays to be lifted so that GLBT couples can join in the celebration of marriage? Or will he continue to delay and obstruct?

35 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. I expect Boulder Clerk Hillary Hall and possibly other clerks to be in court today or tomorrow asking for them to lift the various stays that were put in to effect at Suthers' request.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Hillary Hall really shines on this issue.  I had two friends one in her 80's and one in her 70's who were married at 8am on the day that Hall had to stop issuing licenses (the desist order came in at 10am).  This was after Hall ignored for several days Suther's directive to stop issuing licenses.  The older woman died the next week.  If it hadn't been for Hall's stubbornness they would have never realized their dream of being married.  My hat's off to Hall.

      • notaskinnycook says:

        Gilpin Guy, that story puts the cherry on an already wonderful day. I'm sad for the lady who didn't live to see it, but her widow had the comfort of dealing with her loss the way every other married couple can. As it should be.

  2. Progressicat says:

    The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

    Too long denied.  I'm so happy for everyone this frees.

  3. DaftPunk says:

    This is pathetic cowardice on the part of the Supreme Court.  Precedent dictates that marriage equality will be the law of the land within the next few years, but until then, we will have a patchwork where people married in one state may not be considered married in another, creating miscarriages of justice like not being able to get a driver's license in a red state, because you were married and took your spouse's name in a blue state.  How many people will needlessly suffer because John Roberts doesn't want to see Antonin Scalia's head explode while a black man occupies the White House?

    • BlueCat says:

      True. However in the case of Colorado, and other states in a similar position, it would appear that this still renders Suther's decision to keep opposing equal rights and upholding a law declaring marriage to be between a man and a woman moot since he has already seen lower courts ruling in favor of allowing same sex marriage and this can only be seen as an indication that the Supremes would not be inclined to overturn lower court decisions allowing same sex marriage to go forward. 

    • Davie says:

      Daft — you are exactly right.  Roberts apparently is hiding behind "States Rights" to take the cowardly way out and not provide a consistent Federal ruling for all.  There weren't any cases coming up through the appeals courts that would give the rightwing a chance to reverse the trend, so Roberts will let the piecemeal implementation across the states, with the accompanying injustices, run their course.

      • Progressicat says:

        I don't agree with the "[no] cases coming up through the appeals courts that would give the rightwing a chance to reverse the trend" part.  Both sides in each case asked the Court to take up the issue.  The court certainly could have agreed with opponents and found some support in Circuit dissents (there were some, IIRC).  The Court was certainly not afraid to reach a sweeping conclusion in Citizens United that neither side asked for or initially argued.

        While pure speculation, I think that perhaps Kennedy (or maybe even Roberts) would vote with a majority that the Constitution requires marriage equality but, for whatever reason, doesn't want to take the vote unless there's a circuit split.  Justice Ginsburg has said as much (although without my speculation as to why).  Current belief is that the Sixth Circuit is most likely to offer that.  If they don't it may be a few more years and done without ever seeing the Court.  Whatever the reason for delay, it will be difficult to unwind existing marriages if the Court decides it wants to vote against equality.

        • Actually, from what I've seen this morning, the Sixth Circuit is likely to rule for equality in cases pending. The Ninth Circuit (long considered the "most liberal Appeals Court in the country" by conservatives) is now considered the most likely to issue a conflicting verdict in cases before it.

          • notaskinnycook says:

            How'd you get there, Phoenix? Arizona and Idaho are the ones pending in the Ninth, Correct? I'd be flabbergasted if the Loony, Liberal Ninth ruled in favor of the bans.

            • Just repeating others' analysis. It must be the draw of judges in the case being heard in the Ninth vs the Sixth, because as you (and I) note, the Ninth is generally viewed as more liberal.

              Still, it is the Ninth Circuit which wound up limiting the district court's ruling in the California case rather than accept its expansive (and IMHO correct) basis for allowing gay marriage.

              If it weren't for that limited decision, they wouldn't even be hearing cases from Arizona and Idaho after today's SCOTUS punt. They'd be sitting with a lighter docket rubber-stamping the AZ and ID appeals with "go home and start up the marriage licenses, we already decided that."

        • Davie says:

          Fair points.  I should have made it clear that I am highly confident there are at least 5 votes in favor of allowing same-sex marriage on the court, regardless of the arguments opposing it.  I would never speculate which way or by what reasoning Roberts would vote, given his track record of inventing reasons for his votes instead of merely exercising judicial restraint.

          If the Sixth should cause a split, does that mean it wouldn't be taken up until next year? (I'm not an attorney, nor do I pretend to be one 🙂

        • BlueCat says:

          The conservative Supremes know how difficult such an unwinding would be which makes me believe that they don't intend for it to be unwound but, as you and Ginsberg note, don't want to take the vote at this time and, moreover, are conceding that equal marriage rights cannot be put back in the bottle at this point.

          It appears the end of legal marriage being restricted to heterosexual couples (or to those wishing to appear to be in a heterosexual marriage) is going to proceed relatively quietly from here on out. Just ten years ago it would have been hard to imagine such a change unaccompanied by the highest drama. It seems eons from the time when the Clintons felt they had to back the Defense of Marriage act, doesn't it?

    • With today's decision, a majority of states in the country – including some of the most conservative – are now subject to inclusion under Appeals Court rulings. We're up to at least 30 states subject to those rulings, plus some portion (or maybe even all) of the 19 states that already have marriage equality. The remaining Appeals Court cases are already underway…

      Today's decision to decline all appeals is only unexpected if you assume that either side of the court could agree on a reason to hear the appeals. If the conservative members of the court thought they had a majority to overturn the appeals courts, they would have taken it – it only takes four members to agree to hear an appeal. Conversely, Kennedy and Roberts (the two members most likely to vote with the more liberal wing of the court) probably thought things were going along quickly enough with the Appeals Courts, most if not all of the remaining states would be covered by rulings to be issued this year – sooner than a SCOTUS ruling.

    • dustpuppy says:

      Such in the case in Alabama, which a man died in a car crash, and his partner tried to visit him in the hospital prior to his passing, but was disallowed him. Also, under Alabama law, the marriage is not recognized (they were married in Mass) and the mother inherits whatever the man gets, instead of his partner. That's not right.

      Another case in Nebraska (which I believe falls under the 10th Circuit), a company in a small town somewhere hired a gay man, even admitted up front that he was gay, and the company didn't mind. His partner and his son moved to Nebraska, and two days later, the gay man was fired. They took a huge loss and moved to PA where it's legal, but the damage was done.  Now Nebraska has to be forced to follow the 10th Circuit. I am wondering if that man would have a case. I have to ask a friend who is a law professor who is a lesbian and is thrilled with the decision.  She is slated to marry in California later this year, but will continue to make her home here in Colorado knowing that her marriage is legal.



    • DaftPunk says:

      Written better than I could:

      In a speech last month, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who last yearbecame the first justice to officiate at a same-sex wedding, said that the court is keeping an eye on developments in the lower courts, but that there is “no need for us to rush.” Why not?

      Every day that the justices do not declare a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, a child in San Antonio feels confusion and shame that her fathers cannot get married; a woman in Atlanta is prohibited from making emergency medical decisions for her life partner; a man in Biloxi, Miss., is denied veteran’s survivor benefits after his husband dies. The consequences of being treated as inferior under the law are real, immediate and devastating.

      Same-sex marriage is among the most important civil-rights issues of our time, and the country is ready to resolve it once and for all. The justices have all the information they need to rule that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. What are they waiting for?



  4. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    "Pathetic cowardice?"  Who cares why the Roberts court did what they did. Today is a dark day for the jihadists of the religious right and, as a traditional conservative, I rejoice in that darkness. The Supreme Court's decision to take no further action on gay marriage is a big victory for the true believers in individual rights, freedom of conscience, and real religious liberty.

    Regards, C.H.B. 

  5. FrankUnderwood says:

    Isn’t Suthers afraid this will open him to. A right wing challenge in the Spgs mayoral race. Most of the folks in that city will see this as a surrender. They have the mentality of the Japanese soldiers hiding inn caves until 1950, insisting the war was going on and Japan would still win.

  6. FrankUnderwood says:

    Then again, it gets Cynthia (last name unknown) off the hot seat.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      Probably won't help rally her base though.  There are going to be a lot of disillusioned Christian Dominionists out there today.  This is a Waterloo magnitude failure for social conservatives who have built their entire movement around denying specific groups their liberties.  How rabid is the base going to be now after having one of their three pillars for voting (gays, guns and abortions) eliminated?

      • BlueCat says:

        They've certainly lost a lot of ground since the days when the social conservative/religious right could intimidate Dems into supporting things like the Defense of Marriage Act. Hope they're happy with what they got out of the GOP after all these years. Bet they thought those sweet talkin' GOP pols really did care about abortion and defending our children and marriage from the gays instead  of viewing all that as just a way to raise funds and get votes. They must be feeling pretty chewed up and spit out about now, listening to all the ringing cries of … eh, whatever…. that they're hearing from their former stalwart GOP champions.

        It will be the same down the road on choice. Roe v Wade will never be overturned. Equal rights for gays in everything including marriage will be as normal as women having the right to vote. The GOP will just move on to the next set of promising wedge issues to try to exploit. Don't know what it will be. Bigotry won't work so well in a majority minority nation. Nobody's scared of the commies anymore. They tried to win the WH twice already by accusing the Dem candidate of being a scary alien Muslim and the populace went ahead and elected him anyway. I'm sure they'll think of something.

  7. FrankUnderwood says:

    Nothing from Skippy or Zippy? Is Monday morning when they usually get their instructions for the week downloaded?

  8. Progressicat says:

    Didn't take long for the 10th Circuit (ours) to drop the bomb on Utah and Oklahoma and lift their stay.  Since the Colorado supremes added on their own, they may need to drop their stay as well, although the 10th's vacation probably covers that.

    Who's going to El Paso to force a license from their cold, dead hands?

    • dustpuppy says:

      A _VERY_ public same-sex wedding ceremony in front of Focus on the Family, after bounding Jim Dobson and the rest of their ilk to sit down, shit up, and look at marriage equality from their own eyes….


      I'm sure Ted Haggard is very excited about this marriage equality concept now…. he can now dump his wife legally and find a meth-addled man to marry.

    • MichaelBowman says:

      In case you're wondering how they really feel south of Monument Hill, well…it's "scary".  Like "ebola scary".  From TNTSNBM:

      Former El Paso County commissioner and state Sen. Ed Jones, an Amendment 43 supporter, said gay-rights supporters have momentum now. He thinks they can be defeated, but for traditional marriage supporters to lose means "to define marriage in something other than a religious sense," he said. "It's scary."

  9. dustpuppy says:


    My kingdom for an edit button…

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