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Same-sex couples to file marriage equality lawsuit in Colorado court

LGBT Legal Cases Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

Colorado state sealIt really does seem these days that there’s a new marriage equality lawsuit filed almost every week.  Last week we saw challenges filed in Missouri, Louisiana and Alabama; this week, it’s Colorado.  Fox 31 Denver reports:

Nine gay couples are expected to file a lawsuit in state court to challenge Amendment 43, Colorado’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, although there is growing uncertainty that the suit will be filed Tuesday as initially indicated by the plaintiffs’ law firm.

On Monday afternoon, the law firm Reilly Pozner announced a press conference at its downtown offices at 10 a.m. Tuesday but declined to say what the suit was about, only that “nine Colorado couples, four of whom are legally married, will explain recent events that on Tuesday morning led them to file a precedent-setting civil rights lawsuit against the State of Colorado.”

FOX31 Denver confirmed through multiple sources that the plaintiffs, which include five lesbian couples and four gay couples, will be challenging the state’s gay marriage ban.

Many of the lawsuits filed in other states across the country have been filed in federal court, while some–like the Colorado challenge–are taking place in state court.  The legal arguments behind cases at both levels are nearly always the same–equal protection and due process rights usually form the majority of these complaints’ constitutional claims.

Colorado voters in 2006 approved Amendment 43, officially limiting marriage in the state to different-sex couples.  The state began offering civil unions to same-sex couples in 2013–after a protracted, multi-year legislative fight–although it offered couples limited rights through ‘designated beneficiary agreements’ starting in 2009.

Colorado was also the state whose Amendment 2 led to Romer v. Evans, the first major pro-LGBT rights Supreme Court decision in 1996 in which Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled that the constitutional amendment, which prohibited any protected legal status for LGBT people, violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

18 Comments

  • 1. Ian S.  |  February 18, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Why in state court? Is the ban not part of the CO constitution now, however bad it is?
    I thought the CA sup. court ruled it could do nothing about Prop. 8.

  • 2. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  February 18, 2014 at 9:22 am

    In California, the state court challenge to Prop 8 was only that it had been improperly enacted, not that it violated the US Constitution.

    But state courts do have the ability to hear (federal-)constitutional challenges to state laws, even state constitutional provisions. Amendment 2 (Romer v. Evans) was challenged in a state court (where we won), then the state appealed that to the state Supreme Court (where we won again), then the state appealed that to the US Supreme Court (where we won yet again).

    If I remember the case correctly, Amendment 2 never even took effect, because the state court issued an injunction against it.

  • 3. Eric  |  February 18, 2014 at 10:07 am

    California's racist Prop 14, took a similar state court route to unconstitutionality.

  • 4. Leo  |  February 18, 2014 at 9:27 am

    According to the article, it's because there are already two marriage cases in the 10th Circuit (Utah and Oklahoma), and the plaintiffs here didn't want their case to be stayed.

  • 5. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  February 18, 2014 at 8:14 am

    This would be the second Colorado case in state court. The first case, Brinkman v. Long, was filed last October 30, and the state has already intervened in the case.

  • 6. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 18, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Dang, we're running out of states!

  • 7. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  February 18, 2014 at 11:07 am

    There's still Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, Mississippi, and Georgia with neither active marriage lawsuits nor marriage equality, if I'm remembering the list correctly. (If I'm missing one, or if there are cases in any of these states, please feel free to correct me!)

  • 8. SPQRobin  |  February 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

    FYI, in Montana, there's a related lawsuit in state court (Donaldson v. State of Montana) asking for a "separate but equal" status, à la Nevada/Colorado/…

  • 9. Sean from NJ  |  February 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

    There is this on AK from ME USA:

    On 24 September 2012, in Debra Harris v. Millennium Hotel, et al., Lambda Legal filed suit because Alaska denies survivor benefits to same-gender couples, for whom marriage is banned by AK’s law and its constitution. On 14 October 2013, Lambda Legal appealed to the AK Supreme Court.

  • 10. Straight Ally #3008  |  February 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    This its the best map I know of:
    http://middlingamerica.blogspot.com/2014/02/updat

  • 11. D.Henderson-Rinehart  |  February 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Hmm, they list a case in Mississippi, but the only case I know of there is a divorce case. And the Alaska case, to the best of my knowledge, isn't challenging the state's marriage ban directly, other than to the extent it interferes with death benefits. I would put both of those in the "asterisk" category on that map, were I designing it.

    And of course I should have considered Ohio to also be an asterisk, as the map accurately describes it. The death and birth certificates are limited-reach issues.

  • 12. Pat  |  February 18, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Wow, great map! That's a perfect reference. If there are any errors, as pointed out by D. Henderson-Rinehart, it would great for this site to provide an update and maybe post it under the "current cases" page.

  • 13. Ned_Flaherty  |  February 18, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Another great map is here:
    http://www.marriageequality.org/national-map

    Ned Flaherty
    Projects Manager, Marriage Equality USA

  • 14. palerobber  |  February 19, 2014 at 9:06 am

    great map. would also be nice to see differentiation between state and federal suits, and outlines showing the various federal circuits.

  • 15. Ned_Flaherty  |  February 18, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Thrilled to supply these corrections.

    Alaska: Lambda Legal appealed a marriage-related case to AK Supreme Court.

    Indiana: Per IN Appeals Court, the same-gender marriage ban never invalidates a mixed-gender marriage in which a spouse later changes gender identity.

    Kansas: 2 married, same-gender couples sued so they can file KS taxes jointly.

    Mississippi: Lesbian appealed the MS refusal to divorce her CA marriage.

    Montana: ACLU seeks full MT marriage rights for 7 couples.

    Nebraska: ACLU is challenging the NE ban on LGBT foster parents.

    In all 56 of American's jurisdictions, only 9 locations (2 commonwealths, 3 territories, 4 states) don't have marriage equality and also don't have any pending marriage-related case in a state or federal court:

    PR – Puerto Rico
    WY – Wyoming
    ND – North Dakota
    SD – South Dakota
    GA – Georgia
    GU – Guam
    VI – U.S. Virgin Islands
    AS – American Samoa
    MP – Northern Mariana Islands

    Latest roster is always here: http://www.marriageequality.org/lawsuits

    Ned Flaherty
    Projects Manager
    Marriage Equality USA

  • 16. mokurai  |  March 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    In the three weeks since you wrote your comment, we have gotten five Marriage Equality lawsuits in Indiana, with numerous couples filing to be able to marry or to get marriages from other states recognized. I wrote them up at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/16/1284879/

  • 17. Lynn E  |  February 19, 2014 at 12:27 am

    I remember listening to the SCOTUS arguments last year, and was dumbstruck when one of the Justices mentioned that we enjoyed "political power." The facts do not seem to verify his assertion. The Courts are (theoretically at least) a non-political process for securing rights. Does anyone know of a map or list that would show jurisdictions where the legislatures or popular vote has sided with ME, as opposed to legal decisions?

  • 18. federal vs state guiidelines reference  |  July 9, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    The leaders always get paranoid when they lose popular support and turn on their own ranks looking for spies, dissidents, etc.
    Soon, the public would not even believe that they have the right and the authority to be wearing the robes of a judge or
    be sitting behind the bench. The income tax system in the United States
    was set up by the Congress in 1913.

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