Judge Strikes Down Colorado’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

In a 49-page decision issued yesterday, Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. Colorado’s voter-approved ban, Amendment 43, has been in place since 2006. This ruling decides the two cases challenging Colorado’s ban, Brinkman v. Long and McDaniel-Miccio v. State of Colorado. Judge Crabtree immediately put his ruling on hold, pending appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

These cases are among several challenges to state same-sex marriage bans filed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s U.S. v. Windsor decision in June of last year. Currently, twenty states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage; 12 states (including Colorado) have struck down same-sex marriage bans, pending review by higher courts; and challenges are pending in 20 states (including Arizona and Wyoming). In Windsor, the Supreme Court found the section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibiting same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits unconstitutional because it denied same-sex spouses equal protection under the law afforded to opposite-sex spouses.

Two weeks ago, we reported on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Kitchen v. Herbert, striking down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. Click here to see the article. Kitchen became the first federal appellate court decision on the issue. The Tenth Circuit governs Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico. The Tenth Circuit immediately stayed its ruling pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar appeals are pending in five other federal appellate courts.

Immediately following the Kitchen ruling, the Boulder County Clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers filed an injunction to stop this practice. Today, Boulder County District Court Judge Andrew Harman denied the injunction. Click here to see the decision. Subsequently, Denver County joined Boulder in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The attorney general said he would appeal Crabtree’s decision, but that he may ask the Colorado Supreme Court to postpone the case until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the question, which is most certain to occur.

Legalization of same-sex marriage would significantly affect employer-provided benefits, leave administration under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, and other laws. MSEC will keep you informed of future developments.