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Pueblo County to start issuing same sex marriage licenses Friday

By: matt steiner matt.steiner@gazette.com
July 10, 2014 Updated: July 10, 2014 at 8:38 pm
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Samantha Getman, right, and Victoria Quintana embrace as they receive their marriage license at the Denver Clerk's office on Thursday, July 10, 2014. They were the first couple to be married in Denver, after clerk Debra Johnson began issuing licenses to same sex couples on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder's Office will start issuing same sex marriage licenses Friday.

The decision was made after Denver on Thursday joined with Boulder County to issue them, according to news reports.

Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz had last week decided not to issue them, but changed his mind after a three-hour meeting with legal staff on Thursday, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

In a press release issued Thursday Ortiz said he will grant marriage licenses because not doing so could "put the county at considerable legal risk for denying constitutional rights."

Ortiz cited a ruling by 20th Judicial District Judge Andrew Hartman, who said Wednesday that although gay marriage is technically illegal in Colorado, Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall could continue issuing marriage licenses.

"No court has upheld the constitutionality of marriage bans for 23 consecutive rulings - at state or federal levels all over the nation - that's significant and can't be ignored," ortiz said in the release. "Denying constitutional rights is an untenable position and I have to respect the Constitution, the courts and move forward."

But it won't be happening here in El Paso County, said Ryan Parsell, a spokesman for County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams.

"With legal appeals still pending, we feel it is our responsibility to continue to uphold the law as it is," Parsell said in the email. He noted that the judge in Boulder County indicated that same-sex marriage is "technically illegal in the state of Colorado.

Colorado Springs Pride Center Executive Director Charles Irwin gave his own rebuttal to the El Paso County stance, saying that denying same sex couples the right to marry is also illegal. He pointed to comments by 20th Judicial District Judge Andrew Hartman, who said that every judge who has considered a gay marriage ban in the past year has ruled it unconstitutional.

Irwin said that El Paso County and other officials across the nation need to "move toward equality."

"It is my opinion that El Paso County as a whole wants that equality," Irwin said. "And we have to go with what the people want."

When asked if county residents would make the drive north to Denver or even farther to Boulder to get a license when there still may be a chance that those documents could be ruled invalid, Irwin said he thought "some will go." He said, however, that most gay and lesbian El Paso County residents would likely wait until Williams' office joins the movement.

"We are pushing for full marriage equality," Irwin said. "Why do we have to drive to Denver to enjoy the same rights as everybody else?"

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