Colorado Marriage Ban Struck Down in State Court

by Charles Joughin

Equality winning streak continues as Colorado becomes the latest state to see its ban on marriage equality struck down as unconstitutional

WASHINGTON – Today Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled against Colorado’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, making the Centennial State the latest to see such a ban struck down in court since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic marriage rulings last June.  In Brinkman v. Long, attorneys from Wilcox & Ogden, P.C. and Thomas Russell sued the state on behalf of a same-sex couple who argue that Colorado’s ban on marriage equality violates the state and U.S. constitutions.  In his ruling, Judge Crabtree wrote, “The Court holds that the Marriage Bans violate plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The existence of civil unions is further evidence of discrimination against same-sex couples and does not ameliorate the discriminatory effect of Marriage Bans.”  Judge Crabtree stayed his ruling.

“It is fitting that today, the 146th anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that a Colorado court has struck down the state’s discriminatory marriage ban relying on the equal protection clause,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.   “These marriage bans will continue to fall because the Constitution does not allow for such blatant discrimination.”

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. 

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit struck down a similar marriage ban out of Utah.  The Tenth Circuit decision is binding upon all states within its jurisdiction, including Colorado.  However, the Tenth Circuit issued a stay of its decision, pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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 ten states are currently pending before six 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, 31 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 16 consecutive federal court decisions that bans on marriage equality are unconstitutional.  These rulings have come from judges appointed by both Democrat and Republican presidents. 

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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