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Gay marriage begins in Colorado after court ruling

Stacey Nowlin, left, and her partner, Leona Kat Rogers, obtained their marriage license Monday at the Pueblo County Clerk’s Office.

DENVER – Gay couples started getting marriage licenses Monday in parts of Colorado after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from several states seeking to ban same-sex marriage.

La Plata County was not among those issuing licenses Monday. La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee Parker said three same-sex couples came to her office Monday inquiring about marriage licenses.

Parker said she will not issue same-sex marriage licenses until she gets clearance from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and the Colorado Supreme Court. Suthers has asked for an expedited resolution, she said.

“I will absolutely do whatever is clear within the law,” Parker said.

Although that official guidance from Suthers was still pending, Pueblo County Clerk Bo Ortiz said he began issuing licenses late Monday morning because there were no court orders preventing his office from doing so. At least one gay couple got a license there.

“Today marks a historic day on the march toward marital equality,” Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. He added that “while there are a few more steps in the process, we are that much closer to declaring marriage equality for all Coloradans.”

Three gay couples in northern Colorado’s Larimer County also received marriage licenses, Clerk Angela Myers said.

“The folks who were in here were overjoyed. Very happy people,” Myers said.

U.S. Supreme Court justices did not comment on their decision Monday.

“This is the non-decision that will change the face of America,” said Mari Newman, a lawyer for the couples who successfully challenged Colorado’s gay-marriage ban in federal court. That ruling has been on hold pending the Supreme Court’s actions.

Kate Burns, 51, one of the plaintiffs who challenged Colorado’s 2006 voter-approved gay-marriage ban, said she called her partner, who was at the gym, as soon as she heard the decision from the Supreme Court.

“She just started crying, and crying and crying,” Burns said outside the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, where lawyers from the case held a news conference.

Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican whose district includes conservative El Paso County, said in a statement that he was disappointed by the high court’s decision not to hear the states’ gay-marriage appeal.

“By refusing to take up these appeals, the Supreme Court has allowed unelected activist judges from lower federal courts to usurp the democratic process and undermine the constitutional rights of several states, including Colorado, to define marriage consistent with the values of their citizens,” Lamborn said.

Meanwhile, same-sex couples have been calling the Denver clerk’s office to get married. But clerk Debra Johnson said she has to wait for a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court before she can start granting licenses.

“Love is love, and everyone should be recognized for the love that they share, and it should be validated,” Johnson said.

Johnson and at least two other county clerks started issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the 10th Circuit ruled in a Utah case that gay-marriage bans “demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason.”

Suthers, through legal filings, successfully fought to have clerks stop issuing those licenses because the appeals court put its ruling on hold pending the Supreme Court appeal.

Stays in the Utah and Oklahoma cases already have been lifted. Suthers and attorneys for gay couples have filed requests to have Colorado’s stay lifted too.

Once the legal formalities are over, “clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples,” Suthers said.

Herald Staff Writer Vanessa Guthrie contributed to this report.

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