Burns v. Hickenlooper

The Path to Victory:

On October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied review of two federal legal cases in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Utah and Oklahoma is unconstitutional. Because Colorado is also in the 10th Circuit, the ruling created a binding precedent throughout the circuit, including in Colorado. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to deny review, all parties agreed that a stay in this federal marriage case in Colorado – which also declared the state’s ban unconstitutional – should be lifted.

The stay was in a July 23 ruling, when U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore struck down Colorado’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Burns v. Hickenlooper. The decision was stayed pending an appeal to the 10th Circuit, and stayed further pending action from the U.S. Supreme Court. Since the Court denied review in the 10th Circuit cases, all parties argued that it was time to lift the stay and allow the Burns ruling to take effect in Colorado.

Case Background:

On July 1, six same-sex couples from across Colorado filed a federal lawsuit challenging Colorado’s ban on the freedom to marry. The plaintiffs, represented by a Denver law firm of Killmer, Lane and Newman, name Attorney General Suthers, Governor Hickenlooper and two county clerks as defendants in the lawsuit. They are seeking marriage in state and respect for marriages legally performed in other states.

The case cites last week’s historic 10th Circuit Court decision that ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Utah as precedent—though the decision was stayed. Colorado is one of six states—including Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

The complaint quotes the 10th Circuit ruling: "[T]he Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws. A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union."

On July 23, in a legal case in federal court, U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore struck down Colorado’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, staying the ruling until August 25. Shortly after, Attorney General Suthers appealed the ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The ruling follows a flurry of legal activity in Colorado. On July 9, a judge in state court issued a ruling in Brinkman v. Long that Colorado's marriage ban was unconstitutional. Shortly after, county clerks in Denver County and Pueblo County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, joining the Boulder County clerk, who had begun issuing marriage licenses when the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (which has jurisdiction over Colorado) affirmed that same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry.

After, the state of Colorado attempted several times to stop clerks in Denver, Boulder, and Pueblo County from issuing marriage licenses as the appeal in Brinkman proceeds to the Colorado Supreme Court. On July 18, the CO Supreme Court ordered Denver clerks to stop issuing marriage licenses (but did not issue any orders about Boulder and Pueblo County). And on the same day as the Burns ruling, a judge allowed the Boulder clerk to continuing to issue marriage licenses. 

Brinkman v. Adams County Clerk and Recorder

(Consolidated with McDaniel-Miccio v. State of Colorado)

What's Happening:

On October 7th, this case seeking marriage of same-sex couples was dismissed. Because the Supreme Court denied review and brought the freedom to marry in Colorado, the appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court was dismissed. Couples in the case can now legally get married in the state of Colorado.

Case Background:

Brinkman v. Long was filed on October 31, 2013 by private lawyers in Colorado oon behalf of a same-sex couple seeking the freedom to marry in Colorado. The plaintiffs, Rebecca Brinkman and Margaret Burd, applied for a marriage license at the Adams County Clerk and Recorder's Office and were denied because of laws in Colorado excluding same-sex couples from marriage. 

McDaniel-Miccio was filed on February 19 by nine same-sex couples in Colorado seeking the freedom to marry in their home state or respect for their marriages legally performed in other states. The suit was filed by private lawyers on behalf of nine same-sex couples, all from Denver, CO. Four of the plaintiff couples married outside of Colorado and are now asking that the state respect their marriage licenses. Five other plaintiff couples are unmarried and wish to marry in their home state of Colorado.

On July 9, District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree struck down Colorado’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in these two consolidated state court cases seeking the freedom to marry and respect for marriages legally performed in other states. The ruling has been stayed pending an appeal. If the decision is appealed, the next step is the Colorado Supreme Court.

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