The 350 or so marriage licenses issued to gay couples in Colorado this summer will be fully valid sooner than some people in the state thought.
Colorado is one of 11 states that effectively had gay marriage legalized when the Supreme Court declined Monday to review seven gay marriage cases in which circuit courts had ruled that same-sex marriage bans violated the Constitution.
The Supreme Court's decision not to review the cases effectively legalized gay marriage immediately in the five states involved in those cases: Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. But six more states – Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming – are in the jurisdictions governed by those circuit court rulings and bound by their decisions.
While it may not happen immediately, lower court judges are now obligated to strike down similar gay-marriage bans in those states. In each one of those states, a gay-marriage case is already pending.
"By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place," said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers on Monday 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."
He added that his office would file motions to "expedite the lifting of the stays" in the courts where cases are pending.
It's a sharp shift from this summer, when Attorney General Suthers was engaged in a battle to stop Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.Suthers sued Ms. Hall – who insisted the circuit court ruling in Utah obligated her to issue the licenses – when she refused to stop. After an initial court ruling allowed Hall to continue, clerks in Denver and Pueblo Counties followed her lead.
Before the licenses were brought to a stop by a Colorado Supreme Court order in late July, some 350 couples – 200 of them in Boulder – had received licenses whose validity, until now, was uncertain.
On Tuesday, Hall said that she and her staff "hope to be issuing licenses soon."