The Freedom to Marry in Colorado

Winning Marriage: October 6, 2014

Same-sex couples began marrying in Colorado on October 6, 2014 after the United States Supreme Court’s decision that day to deny review of a pro-marriage order from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to deny review, all parties agreed that a stay in a separate federal marriage ruling in Colorado – which also declared the state’s ban unconstitutional – should be lifted.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • April 21, 1975: Clela Rorex, a county clerk in Colorado, is the first in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, including binational couple Tony Sullivan and Richard Adams. The validity of the marriage licenses is challenged and Rorex stops issuing licences, but this brave, compassionate action helps to pave the way for the freedom to marry in years to come and is the catalyst for Tony and Richard filing the nation’s first-ever federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry, Adams v. Howerton. Although their case is unsuccessful, their pioneering case is an important part of the early marriage movement (Learn more with Limited Partnership).
  • May 28, 2000: The Colorado Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples, a bill passed twice before (and vetoed both times by Governor Roy Romer). The 2000 statute is signed into law by Governor Bill Owens.
  • November 7, 2006: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Colorado push through Amendment 43, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Colorado Constitution.
  • 2006-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Colorado take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • May 1, 2013: A Colorado law, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, takes effect to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil union, providing some but not all of the protections and responsibilities of marriage.
  • March 2014: Polling in Colorado tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • March 2, 2014:  Why Marriage Matters Colorado, the campaign to remove discrimination from Colorado’s constitution and win the freedom to marry for all couples in the state, is launched.
  • July 1, 2014: Same-sex couples and private counsel file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Colorado, Burns v. Hickenlooper. In the same year, another case is filed, building momentum for marriage in the courts. Read the initial complaint in Burns, the complaint in Brinkman v. Long, and the complaint in McDaniel-Miccio v. State of Colorado.
  • July 9, 2014: Judge C. Scott Crabtree rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Brinkman and McDaniel-Miccio, striking down Colorado's marriage ban. The ruling is stayed. Read the ruling.
  • July 23, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore strikes down Colorado’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Burns v. Hickenlooper. The decision is stayed – first by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and later by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the ruling.
  • October 6, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies 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. The ruling creates a binding precedent throughout the circuit, including in Colorado. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to deny review, all parties agree that a stay in Burns v. HIckenlooper should be lifted, and same-sex couples begin marrying in Colorado that day.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Why Marriage Matters Colorado was the grassroots public education campaign to build support for the freedom to marry in Colorado.
  • One Colorado is a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to securing and protecting equality and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Coloradans and their families.
  • The ACLU of Colorado is the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, committed to standing up for equality for all Coloradans.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.