Pitkin County to start processing same-sex marriage licenses | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County to start processing same-sex marriage licenses

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill told county commissioners on Tuesday that her office now has the legal authority to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"I did announce that the Colorado attorney general directed all county clerks to begin issuing same-sex-marriage licenses," Vos Caudill said Tuesday. "Our Recording Department staff has been working hard all morning to get the proper documents in place and set up a system. We can assure people who walk into our office that we can conduct same-sex marriages and we will have the proper documents for them."

Jack Johnson, of Aspen, who is gay, said he was not necessarily elated by the news but added, "It's about time. I'm amazed that in my lifetime this happened." Johnson is a former city councilman.

The attorney general's directive comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear appeals from states within the 10th Circuit federal court district seeking to ban same-sex marriage. A June 25 ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said Utah's gay-marriage ban was unconstitutional. Colorado is part of the same district.

After that ruling, some counties in Colorado — Boulder, Denver and Pueblo — began to process same-sex-marriage licenses. The state Attorney General's Office frowned on the practice, though, and put a stop to it, preferring to wait to see if the Supreme Court would take up the matter.

Because the highest court won't deal with it, the appellate court decision stands.

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Since May 2013, Colorado has allowed civil unions for same-sex couples. But marriage licenses have been taboo since 2006 because of a ban approved by state voters.

"Our office is excited and happy to move forward in issuing same-sex-marriage licenses to all community members who choose to get married," Vos Caudill said. "We're open for business for anyone who comes into our office and are happy to share in the occasion."

Though the announcement about the Supreme Court's decision not to consider appeals of the lower-court ruling came out Monday, the state Attorney General's Office issued a statement noting that marriage licenses could not be processed in Colorado counties until a stay in the case was lifted.

Officially, the state Supreme Court lifted the stay Tuesday morning, said Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for state Attorney General John Suthers.

"There are no remaining legal requirements that prevent same-sex couples from legally marrying in Colorado," Suthers said in a prepared statement Tuesday. "Beginning today, Colorado's 64 county clerks are legally required to issue licenses to same-sex couples who request them.

"In addition, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is required to register such marriages in the records of the state of Colorado."

Tyler said she's heard that officials in a few counties already had issued same-sex-marriage licenses on Monday, before the stay was lifted.

Vos Caudill said she doesn't expect a rush of same-sex couples wanting to get married this week at the Pitkin County government building on Main Street. However, one man indicated on Tuesday that he and his partner may be coming into the office this morning for a license.

"I don't know if they are going to get their license and then do another ceremony (somewhere else) or if they are going to solemnize themselves at the counter," Vos Caudill said. "They can get married at the counter if they choose to do that."

Chief Deputy Clerk Linda Gustafson oversees the county's marriage office. Vos Caudill predicts that with the recent developments, gay couples seeking marriage licenses will start to trickle into the office.

"I have no idea what to expect," Vos Caudill said.

Johnson, who grew up in rural Kentucky, pointed out that the overturning of the gay-marriage ban is one victory in a long string of gay-rights successes over the years.

"I remember when I was growing up, and I stayed home from school because I was sick, watching the Phil Donahue show with my mom, and they had a gay guy on the show," Johnson said. "They put a bag over his head, turned his back to the camera, put him in a dimly lit room and disguised his voice to put him on TV.

"Now, if I weren't overweight and old, I could fight in the military. I could adopt a child. I could get married. And that's all happened in the last 30 years. That's what's really amazing to me — not that this happened today but that it happened at all."

andre@aspentimes.com

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