BOULDER – More same-sex couples lined up Thursday to get marriage licenses in Boulder County despite warnings that gay marriage remains illegal in Colorado.
Clerk Hillary Hall began issuing licenses Wednesday after a federal appeals court ruled that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. More couples showed up Thursday to get licenses, and some said they quickly were married by simply signing their certificates, a process allowed under Colorado law.
However, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, legal analysts and even the lawyer challenging Colorado’s gay-marriage ban say Hall’s actions aren’t legal because the ruling is on hold in case of a possible appeal. The ruling has no legal impact until the case is settled, so Utah’s ban still is in place, and so is Colorado’s.
“I think what the Boulder clerk and recorder is doing is quite unlawful under Colorado law,” said Ralph Ogden, who represents a lesbian couple suing to overturn Colorado’s gay-marriage ban. “You know what side I’m on, and I’d like to say everything is OK, but from the legal side, it isn’t.”
Some of the couples getting licenses in Boulder said they went to support Hall’s decision to flout the court’s stay and also wanted to act before Suthers moved to halt the process. The clerk’s office said it had issued 32 licenses Thursday.
“It really is just about time, and you know, the world is changing, and there’s no reason for us not to do it today,” said Felice Cohen, who got a license to marry Jennifer Knight of Longmont. The two were joined in a civil union in May.
Some thought they would have to wait a few more years to get married in Colorado, but others, like Angie Holley, 61, and Bylo Farmer, 53, said they never thought it would happen in their lifetime.
Holley and Farmer, among those who signed their marriage license to “self-solemnize” their union, were joined by friends from their women’s chorus who sang “Going to the Chapel” before and after they got their license. They had an impromptu reception at a picnic table outside the clerk’s office with sparkling grape juice and friends sharing stories about them.
Farmer said that, for now, she’s not worried about warnings that the licenses aren’t valid.
“I’m not going to let it ruin my day. I’ve got my friends and loved ones here,” Farmer said.
Levi Healy, 34, and Josh Hufford, 31, of Denver, who had planned to go to California to get married, said their friends and family encouraged them to get a marriage license after Hall’s announcement. They said Suther’s warning helped them to decide to act now.
They both described the experience as “surreal.”
“It still feels fuzzy, and ‘Is this really happening?’ but yes, it really is,” Hufford said.
Boulder County was among the first to issue same-sex marriage licenses nearly 40 years ago. Six couples were issued licenses by then-clerk Clela Rorex in 1975 before the state attorney general intervened.
All six couples were married. The first couple divorced. One of the other couples, Anthony Sullivan, an Australian citizen, and Richard Adams, of California, remained together until Adams’ death in 2012. Their marriage wasn’t recognized by the federal government, and their story, including Sullivan’s fight for a green card, is chronicled in the new documentary “Limited Partnership.”