At least two county clerks in Colorado began issuing marriage permits to same-sex couples on Monday, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand several lower-court opinions declaring bans on gay matrimony in five other states unconstitutional.
The licensing of gay and lesbian couples was initiated by the clerks of Pueblo and Larimer counties, two jurisdictions not bound by a Colorado Supreme Court stay maintaining the status quo while legal challenges to Colorado's ban were still pending in the state judiciary.
The state-court lawsuits, and separate federal cases brought in Colorado, are expected to soon become moot after Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision refusing to review U.S. appellate rulings that struck down gay marriage prohibitions in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Colorado falls within the same federal appellate region, the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit, as Utah and Oklahoma, so appeals court decisions overturning gay marriage bans in those two states would ultimately hold sway in Colorado as well.
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz was one of three county clerks in Colorado, all Democrats, who started issuing same-sex licenses after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional last summer.
He stopped after the state’s Republican attorney general, John Suthers, warned that the same-sex marriage ban was still in effect until litigation over the issue had run its course.
On Monday, Suthers said in a statement that the U.S. Supreme Court decision “clears the way” for gay nuptials and he will no longer defend Colorado’s voter-passed constitutional amendment defining marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.
“We will file motions to expedite the lifting of the stays in the federal and state courts and will advise the clerks when to issue licenses,” he said.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh)