DENVER — A federal judge ruled late Wednesday afternoon that Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore made the ruling and then immediately put his order on hold, giving the state a month to appeal the decision to a higher court.
Attorney General John Suthers announced Wednesday evening that he plans to file an appeal.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Suthers, a Republican, had asked for a longer stay until the issue is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, but Moore ruled that the state did not meet the burden to justify a longer stay.
“This Court cannot — and, more importantly, it will not — tell the people of Colorado that the access to this or any other fundamental right will be delayed because it ‘thinks’ or ‘perceives’ the subtle — or not so subtle — content of a message not directed to this case,” Moore wrote. “The rule of law demands more.”
Moore acknowledged the likelihood of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Herbert v. Kitchen, the successful challenge of Utah’s same-sex marriage ban was upheld last month by the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals but stayed, providing the final resolution to the national question of same-sex marriage.
The Colorado Why Marriage Matters campaign praised Moore, but criticized Suthers for appealing the ruling.
“Today, Judge Moore affirmed what Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree, the justices of the 10th Circuit Court, and dozens of other judges nationwide have decided: marriage bans are unconstitutional,” said Wendy Howell, the group’s director, in a statement.
“We applaud his ruling as another step forward for equality, and we continue to call upon Attorney General John Suthers to drop his wasteful defense of Colorado’s unconstitutional ban.
“Republican governors in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Nevada have all decided to stop wasting taxpayer dollars continuing to defend indefensible bans in their states. Here in Colorado, real couples are hurt every day that they are denied the ability to marry, and there is no justifiable reason to prolong that pain. Therefore, we again call upon Suthers to drop his appeals and let the rulings stand.”
Wednesday’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by six gay couple on July 1.
A state judge issued a similar ruling in a separate case earlier in July.
And in another case, a judge ruled that the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder can continue to issue same-sex marriage licenses. She began doing that when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals declared Utah’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states following a spate of challenges in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act.
More than 20 courts have now found state bans on same-sex marriage to be a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
Colorado voters banned same-sex marriage in 2006; the state legislature approved civil unions in 2013.