Colorado sues clerk for 'civil disobedience': Issuing same-sex marriage licenses

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall has issued marriage licenses since the 10th Circuit's ruling last week. She says Colorado is 'seeking to force me to violate the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian couples.'

Brennan Linsley/AP
Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall (c.) congratulates longtime couple Jennifer Knight (l.) and Felice Cohen (r.) after they received a marriage license at the offices of the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder, in Boulder, Colo., June 26. Hall began issuing licenses a day earlier following a federal appeals court ruling that Utah's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Colorado's Republican attorney general on Thursday followed through with his threat to sue a Boulder County clerk for issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

The lawsuit from Attorney General John Suthers is the latest in Colorado's gay-marriage legal fight, which has escalated since the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled last week that same-sex couples have the right to marry. The ruling was put on hold pending appeal, and because of that, Suthers has maintained that the state's gay-marriage ban remains in effect and that the licenses issued by Boulder are invalid.

Still, Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall has continued issuing licenses since the appeals court ruling.

Suthers and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper have said same-sex marriages should wait until the US Supreme Court settles the question.

"Regretfully, our office was forced to take action against Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall due to her refusal to follow state law," Suthers said in a statement. "While we would prefer not to sue a government official, Ms. Hall's actions are creating a legal limbo for both the state and the couples whose relationships she wants to champion."

Boulder County District Judge Andrew Hartman will hear Suthers' lawsuit Wednesday morning.

In a statement after the lawsuit's filing, Hall said Suthers is "seeking to force me to violate the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian couples who apply for a marriage license."

Hall went on to say that it's Suthers' prerogative to take legal action until the Supreme Court rules on the issue, but she made clear she would not stop issuing licenses to gay couples.

"I think the least harmful and most sensible solution is to issue marriage licenses and avoid the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court. I hope the court will agree with me," she said.

The office had issued 105 licenses by the end of Thursday.

While the governor has not criticized Hall's actions, he said Thursday that because the decision from the appeals court is on hold, officials should wait until a higher court issues a definitive ruling.

"She obviously feels very passionately about this," Hickenlooper said about Hall. "In a way, I think you can argue it's some form of civil disobedience."

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