Colorado Marriage Ban Overturned by Federal Court

by Charles Joughin

18th consecutive federal court decision striking down state bans on marriage equality

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore ruled against Colorado’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.  In Burns v. Hickenlooper, attorneys with Kilmer, Lane and Newman, LLP sued the state on behalf of six same-sex couples who argue that Colorado’s ban on marriage equality violates the U.S. Constitution. Judge Moore stayed his ruling until August 25 to allow the state time to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which has already struck down bans on marriage equality in Utah and Oklahoma. 

“Today’s ruling from Judge Moore provides even further confirmation that Colorado’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.  “Through civil unions, Colorado has already recognized the need for same-sex couples to have equal access to the benefits and obligations of marriage.  Now its time for the state to stop its appeal and allow these families the dignity that comes with full marriage equality.”

Last month clerks in Boulder, Denver, and Pueblo counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after several recent court rulings deemed marriage bans unconstitutional. But last week the Colorado Supreme Court ordered Denver to stop issuing the licenses while the state ban remains in place and rulings are on appeal.  On Monday the Pueblo clerk also stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  However, earlier today the Colorado Supreme Court declined the state’s request to force the Boulder clerk to stop issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples. 

There are over 70 court cases challenging discriminatory marriage bans across the country in 30 of the 31 states where such a ban exists, plus Puerto Rico.  Cases from eleven states are currently pending before five federal appeals courts.  The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.  In total, 33 states either have marriage equality or have seen state marriage bans struck down as unconstitutional in court.  Since the Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, there have been 18 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional.  These rulings have come from judges appointed by both Democrat and Republican presidents.  

Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins.  And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group.  According to ABC News / Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality.  40 percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent,according to the New York Times.  These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down. 

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.  Learn more about this and other marriage equality cases at

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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