DENVER — Colorado's attorney general said Monday that it's only a matter of time until gay marriage is legal in his state, but he'll continue to defend his state's ban on the practice all the way to the state Supreme Court.
John Suthers made the statements in an interview after he asked the Colorado Supreme Court to stop county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples because the ban is still technically in effect. Suthers is also appealing a ruling last week that that ban is unconstitutional directly to the state's high court.
Three clerks in Colorado have argued that because a federal court in Denver ruled that states can't ban gay marriage, the clerks can issue licenses to same-sex couples, even though the court's decision was stayed pending appeal.
"It appears very likely that, either judicially or politically, Colorado is going to have same-sex marriage," Suthers said in the interview. "But that is no excuse for abandoning the legal processes by which legal change or political change comes about."
The appeals put an endgame in sight to the turmoil that erupted last week when District Judge C. Scott Crabtree became the 16th judge to strike down a gay marriage ban in the past year. Crabtree also stayed his order pending the outcome of its appeal.
On Thursday, one day after Crabtree's ruling, a Boulder County judge in a separate case rejected Suthers' effort to stop Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Clerks in Denver and Pueblo joined Hall, and more than 200 gay couples have wed in the past three weeks.
On Monday morning, Crabtree refused to stop the Denver clerk from issuing licenses, saying the stay in his case does not give him the power to order her to halt the service. Hours later, Suthers said he'd appeal to the Supreme Court to immediately halt the issuance of marriage licenses and, later, review Crabtree's ruling.
In appealing Crabtree's ruling directly to the Supreme Court, Suthers is bypassing the state court of appeals and putting the case on a legal fast-track.
In the filing, Suthers says that the clerks' issuance of "false" marriage documents could be a felony under Colorado law, though he added in the interview that he did not think that any of the clerks had committed a crime.
It's unknown when the state Supreme Court will hear Suthers' appeal. Gay rights groups and several Democrats, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, had urged him not to appeal Crabtree's ruling that Colorado's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Hall had based her decision to start issuing licenses on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a lower court's decision striking down Utah's gay marriage ban. That ruling has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no guarantee the high court will take that case, and it could not rule until 2015 at the earliest if it did.