- Civil marriage equality in effect at the state level since October 2014. (Same-sex couples may legally marry.)
- In 1975, the Boulder County Clerk issued marriage licenses to several same-sex couples after the local district attorney interpreted Colorado's statutes, which used the phrase "any two persons," to be gender-neutral with respect to marriage. The state attorney general issued a contrary opinion that those marriages were invalid. When one of the couples married in Boulder tried to use it to sponsor his husband for immigration purposes, he lost his case, Adams v. Howerton, in federal court.
- Colorado is home of the historic legal case Romer v. Evans, 1993-1996. Romer v. Evans challenged CO's infamous Amendment 2, which prohibited state or local government from adopting measures that would protect gay and lesbian people as a class from discrimination. Dealing with sexual orientation and state laws, Romer was the first Supreme Court of the United States case to address gay rights since Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, when the Court held that laws criminalizing sodomy were constitutional.
- On 6 October 2014, SCOTUS declined to hear an appeal from the 10th Circuit of the ruling in Kitchen that found Utah's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, leaving that decision as binding precedent in courts in Colorado. See the Burns case under LAWSUITS-PENDING below. The Pueblo County clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples without waiting for the stay to be formally lifted.
Legislation - Enacted
SB 19 Persons Filing Joint Tax Returns
Author/Sponsor: Sen. Steadman/Rep. Coram
Date Introduced: 21 January 2014
Date Enacted: 27 February 2014
Description: This bill was designed to bring state tax filing regulations into line with the federal IRS regulations regarding same-sex couples filing jointly.
From the bill text: The bill requires any 2 taxpayers who may legally file a joint federal income tax return to file separate state income tax returns if they file separate federal income tax returns and to file a joint state income tax return if they file a joint federal income tax return.
Colorado Civil Union Act
Author/Sponsor: Senator Pat Steadman and Representative Mark Ferrandino
Date Introduced: 14 February 2011
Date Enacted: 1 May 2013
- The bill allowed both same-sex couples and different-sex couples to form unions.
- The act was co-sponsored by nearly all Democrats in the legislature.
- The legislation as first introduced addressed financial responsibility of partners, medical decision-making and treatment, inheritance, ability to designate a partner as retirement beneficiary, the ability to adopt the child of one's partner, insurance of partner, family leave benefits, responsibility of conservator, guardian, or personal representative.
- A later amendment to the bill added a religious exemption, specifying that no religious official would be required to officiate at a same-sex union ceremony.
Lawsuits - Pending
Burns v. Hickenlooper
Case #: 1:14-cv-01817
Court Level: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Date Filed: 1 July 2014
Date of Appeal: August 2014
- Six same-sex couples who have civil unions, but wish to marry, filed suit seeking the right to marry in Colorado and recognition for out-of-state marriages. The plaintiffs also filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction.
- 2 July 2014, the defendants filed a non-opposition to an agreed form of preliminary injunction subject to that injunction being stayed pending the final disposition of the 10th Circuit’s decision in the Utah case Kitchen v. Herbert.
- 2 July 2014, Debra Johnson, the Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of Denver, filed a joinder in motion to stay the proceedings.
- 23 July 2014, the Preliminary Injunction was granted, but temporarily stayed until 8:00 a.m. on 25 August 2014.
- 23 July 2014, the AG immediately filed a notice of appeal.
- 7 August 2014, the plaintiffs filed their opposition to the stay pending appeal.
- 14 August 2014, the Attorney General filed his reply in support of the motion for a stay.
- 21 August 2014, the 10th Circuit granted the state's motion for a stay pending appeal.
- 2 September 2014, the CO AG filed a motion asking the 10th Circuit to put a hold on this appeal pending resolution in Oklahoma's Bishop v. Smith and Utah's Kitchen v. Herbert.
- 18 September 2014, the court put this case on hold until further notice. The parties are to inform the court when SCOTUS makes a decision re: the pending cert petitions from Utah and Oklahoma and also file a status report in 30 days if there is no SCOTUS decision by that time.
- 6 October 2014, SCOTUS denied cert for 10th Circuit cases from Oklahoma and Utah, and then lifted the stays in both states. A Joint Status Report and Motion to Lift Stay was immediately filed for this case.
- 6 October 2014, the CO Attorney General filed a Motion to Dismiss the appeal and lift the stay.
Brinkman v. Long
Case #: 2013-CV-32572
Court Level: State Appeal Court
Date Filed: 31 October 2013
Date of Appeal: N/A
- 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 the law in Colorado excludes same-sex couples from marriage
- 31 October 2013, the couple filed suit seeking to marry.
- Brinkman v. Adams County Clerk and Recorder was consolidated with McDaniel-Miccio v. the State of Colorado (below) and with Burns v. Hickenlooper (above).
- 16 June 2014, Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree heard oral argument. The judge mocked the state's argument that Colorado's ban on same-sex marriage protects the "nature of marriage" and the ability to produce children. He was also skeptical of the state's claim that previous judges had erred in their rulings. "They all got it wrong?" Crabtree asked, referring to 15 other state and federal judges. "What am I supposed to do then when presented with this? Just punt?" Crabtree will issue a written order at a later date. He noted that his decision likely will be appealed.
- 16 June 2014, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Attorney General John Suthers asked the federal court to issue an injunction declaring Colorado's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. However, they want the court to delay implementation of the ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue.
- 9 July 2014, Judge Crabtree ruled that the Colorado ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. He stayed his decision pending appeal.
- The clerks in 4 different counties, Adams, Boulder, Denver and Pueblo, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the existing ban.
- 10 July 2014 in People of Colorado, John W. Suthers, and Colorado v. Hall (see above) a district judge ruled that Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall could ignore the state ban and keep issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
- 14 July 2014, the State of Colorado filed an emergency motion for an injunction with the Colorado Supreme Court, which the Colorado Supreme Court granted on 18 July 2014, ordering the clerks of Denver and Adams counties from issuing further marriage licenses to same-sex couples pending resolution of the appeal.
- 21 July 2014, Clerk Gilbert Ortiz also stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, albeit reluctantly.
- 29 July 2014, Hillary Hall was ordered by the CO Supreme Court to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (See People of Colorado, John W. Suthers, and Colorado v. Hall under Lawsuits-Resolved.)
McDaniel-Miccio v. State of Colorado
Case #: 2014-cv-30731
Date Filed: 19 February 2014
Date of Appeal: N/A
- Five unmarried same-sex couples in Colorado filed suit seeking to marry in their home state of CO, and four couples are part of the suit to gain legal recognition for their marriages legally performed in other states.
- Consolidated with Brinkman v. Long (above).
Lawsuits - Resolved
People of Colorado, John W. Suthers, and Colorado v. Hall
Case #: 2014CV30833
Date Filed: June 2014
Ruling Date: 29 July 2014
- Hillary Hall, in her official capacity as Clerk and Recorder for Boulder County, Colorado began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on 25 June 2014 and ceased to desist when ordered to do so by the state.
- The People of the State of Colorado, via Attorney General John W. Suthers and the State of Colorado (collectively, the “State”), filed a Complaint against Hall and filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction.
- 10 July 2014, District Court Judge Andrew Hartman ruled that though same-sex marriage was still technically illegal in Colorado, Hall could ignore the 9 July 2014 stay in the Brinkman ruling (see below) and keep issuing licenses.
- 21 July 2014, two weeks after denial of its request for a preliminary injunction against Clerk Hall, the State filed a notice of appeal asking the court to reconsider its 10 Jul 2014 ruling and block Clerk Hall from issuing same sex marriage licenses.
- 23 July 2014, the court denied the stay, again.
- 27 July 2014, after appealing to the CO Supreme Court, the plaintiffs filed a Petition for Relief asking the court to order Hall to stop issuing licenses during the appeal.
- 29 July 2014, the CO Supreme Court ordered Hall to cease issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Boulder. Although Hall said she was disappointed, she said she would respect the Court's order.
Charlie Craig and David Mullins v. Masterpiece Cakeshop
Case #: CR 2013-0008
Date Filed: May/June 2013
Ruling Date: 30 May 2014
- In 2012 Mullins and Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop to order a cake for their wedding reception. Masterpiece owner Jack Phillips informed them that because of his religious beliefs the store’s policy was to deny service to customers who wished to order baked goods to celebrate a same-sex couple’s wedding.
- Mullins and Craig filed complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) contending that Masterpiece had violated this law.
- The ruling affirmed previous determinations that Masterpiece’s refusal to sell Mullins and Craig a wedding cake constituted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of Colorado law.
- Masterpiece Cakeshop was ordered to change its company policies, provide “comprehensive staff training” regarding public accommodations discrimination, and provide quarterly reports for the next two years regarding steps it has taken to come into compliance and whether it has turned away any prospective customers.
Case #: 517 U.S. 620 (SCOTUS)
Date Filed: 1993
Ruling Date: 20 May 1996
- This is a historic legal case which set valuable legal precedent.
- In 1992 Amendment 2 was added to Colorado’s state constitution by a statewide referendum. It prohibited the state or local government from adopting measures that would protect gay and lesbian people as a class from discrimination.
- Richard G. Evans, an administrator in Denver (one of the cities whose antidiscrimination laws had just been voided), sued Roy Romer, the governor of Colorado, to have Amendment 2 nullified as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause (which prohibits the states from denying to any person “the equal protection of the laws”). Synopsis of Rule of Law: A bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest.
- The Respondents, Evans and others (Respondents), argued that Amendment 2 did nothing more than deny homosexuals special rights.
- The stated purpose of the amendment was to prevent the deterioration of the sexual morality favored by most Coloradans.
- The state trial court permanently enjoined enforcement Amendment 2.
- In 1994 the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision.
- The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
- This case, dealing with sexual orientation and state laws, was the first Supreme Court case to address gay rights since Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), when the Court had held that laws criminalizing sodomy were constitutional.
- 10 October 1995, the case was argued before the Supreme Court (SCOTUS).
- 20 May 1006, in a landmark 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that CO's Amendment 2 preventing protected status based upon homosexuality or bisexuality did not satisfy the Equal Protection Clause. The majority opinion in Romer stated that the amendment lacked "a rational relationship to legitimate state interests", and the dissent stated that the majority "evidently agrees that 'rational basis' - the normal test for compliance with the Equal Protection Clause - is the governing standard". The state constitutional amendment failed rational basis review.
- Romer v. Evans is seen by many as a major turning point in the legal recognition of gay rights. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in writing the majority opinion for SCOTUS, gave advocates what they had been seeking all along: recognition that prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation is no more acceptable under the Constitution than discrimination on the basis of race or religion.
- The decision in Romer set the stage for Lawrence v. Texas (2003), where the Court overruled its decision in Bowers, and for the Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor (June 2013).
Ballot Initiatives - Passed
Colorado Amendment 43 (Initiative 43)
Purpose of Ballot Measure: To define marriage in Colorado as only a union between one man and one woman.
Date Passed: 7 November 2006
- A referendum approved 56% by the voters in 2006 that added a new section to Article II of the Colorado Constitution to define marriage in Colorado as only a union between one man and one woman.
- Amendment 43 was one of two statewide measures that Colorado voters faced in the November 2006 election that dealt with the definition of marriage and civil partnerships. The other, Referendum I, would have authorized domestic partnerships, but it was defeated.
Colorado Amendment 2 - No Protected Status for Sexual Orientation (Initiative 2)
Purpose of Ballot Measure: To amend the Colorado Constitution to prevent gay and lesbian people being recognized as a protected class.
Date Passed: 3 November 1992 - ruled unconstitutional in 1996
- Amendment 2 is notorious within the LGBTQ community. It was a referendum passed by the CO voters, by a vote of 53% to 47%, in 1992. Amendment 2 would have amended the Colorado state constitution to prevent any city, town, or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to recognize gay and lesbian individuals as a protected class.
- The amendment stated: Neither the State of Colorado, through any of its branches or departments, nor any of its agencies, political subdivisions, municipalities or school districts, shall enact, adopt or enforce any statute, regulation, ordinance or policy whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of or entitle any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination. This Section of the Constitution shall be in all respects self-executing.
- The passage of Amendment 2 resulted in a historic legal case and landmark ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. (See Romer v. Evans under Lawsuits-Resolved above). On 20 May 20 1996, SCOTUS ruled 6-3 that Colorado's Amendment 2 was unconstitutional.
- NOTE: In 2007, fifteen years after the referendum on Amendment 2, the Colorado legislature amended its anti-discrimination law by forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in employment. In 2008, Colorado further expanded its LGBT protections to include housing, public accommodation, and advertising.
- 23 July 2015, a Quinnipiac University poll showed that by a 59%-33% margin, surveyed voters support allowing same-sex marriage, while 57% say they support the Supreme Court's recent ruling allowing gay marriage nationwide. And 61% said they would oppose a U.S. constitutional amendment allowing states to ban same-sex marriage. As for discrimination against gays and lesbians, most surveyed Colorado voters say businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to them, by a 60%-35% percent. But when asked in a follow-up question how they would feel about refusing service "if the business says homosexuality violates its owners' religious beliefs," the margin in favor of barring discrimination narrows to 48%-45%.
- On 28 April 2014 Quinnipiac University released new poll results showing that by a 61%–33% margin, Colorado voters supported allowing same-sex couples to get married in the state.
- 18 March 2014, Public Policy Polling released results of a poll that showed support for marriage equality had hit a record high in Colorado. 56% of voters supported it, compared to only 36% who were opposed. Poll Details