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Top Colorado court halts gay marriages in Boulder

DENVER – Boulder County must stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while the Colorado Supreme Court considers an appeal from the state’s attorney general, justices said in a ruling Tuesday.

The court ruling was in response to an appeal from Republican Attorney General John Suthers, who has been trying for several weeks to get Boulder’s clerk to stop giving marriage licenses to gay couples.

The same court previously ruled in Suthers’ favor in ordering Denver to stop issuing licenses, but that ruling didn’t apply to Boulder.

Boulder was the first Colorado county to begin giving licenses to gay couples in June after the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. That ruling was stayed pending appeal.

The state’s high court said it will take up Suthers’ appeal asking for same-sex marriage licenses to stop until the question of gay marriage bans is decided definitively by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Suthers has said the state’s laws need to be enforced until there’s a decisive court ruling.

Boulder Clerk Hillary Hall argued, however, that the guidance from several courts that have overturned state bans is clear, and a final, favorable outcome for gay marriages is inevitable. Boulder’s attorneys have told Suthers that they believe Hall would be violating people’s constitutional rights by refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But even before Tuesday’s order, Hall said she would stop granting licenses to gay couples if ordered to do so. “I will, however, respect any decision that the Colorado Supreme Court decides to make,” she said in a statement Monday.

The state Supreme Court said it would hear the case by Oct. 20.

In addition to Boulder and Denver, Pueblo County also briefly issued licenses to same-sex couples, but Pueblo stopped after the state Supreme Court ordered Denver to halt the practice.

Suthers and Boulder County have spent weeks in back-and-forth legal wrangling as Suthers has tried unsuccessfully through lower courts to get the county stop allowing gay weddings.

In a separate case, a federal judge in Denver ruled July 23 that that state’s 2006 voter-approved ban is unconstitutional. But the judge put his ruling on hold to give the state until Aug. 25 to seek a stay, pending resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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