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Same sex couples thrilled to get married in Pueblo County

July 11, 2014 Updated: July 11, 2014 at 7:35 pm
Caption +
Deborah Crippen, left, and Lynn Menefee sign their marriage license at the Pueblo County Courthouse while their daughter, Emma Crippen-Menefee, squeezes between them to watch Friday, July 11, 2014. Gilbert Ortiz, the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder, decided to issue same-sex marriage licenses to avoid putting Pueblo County at legal risk for denying constitutional rights. Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

It was a historic moment filled with tears, cheers, red roses, and two weddings Friday as Pueblo County followed Boulder and Denver in issuing same-sex marriage licenses for the first time in Colorado.

"I love her so. I would marry her a hundred times," said Bea Gallegos smiling at her wife Jamie Gallegos.

The newlyweds had only come to get a license on Friday, but since a minister was on hand for another couple, they decided to tie the knot right then and there in the Pueblo County Commissioner's board room.

They met four years ago on Facebook and their first date was a ride on an ATV.

"I was afraid to hold on to her tight, so I just grabbed her shirt," Jamie said with a laugh.

They've used the same last name since their civil union two years ago. For their ceremony both wore purple. Jamie wore strappy sandals and a flashy purple purse. One of their four children, 9-year-old Alexis, wore a purple flower in her hair.

The festive, emotional atmosphere was more akin to a wedding reception hall than the staid halls of Pueblo County Courthouse as dozens of excited friends and family crowded into the clerk's office to watch the couples sign their $30 marriage licenses.

Daneya Esgar, a board member of the Southern Colorado Equality Alliance handed out roses and hugs.

"This is historic, overwhelming and beautiful," she said.

Even Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz, who decided to grant the marriage licenses Thursday, was snapping photos and giving congratulatory hugs like he was a father of the bride.

He decided to allow same sex marriage licenses after a meeting with the Pueblo County Attorney's office when the decided that they could not legally risk denying constitutional rights.

Ortiz pointed to a Wednesday ruling by 20th Judicial District Judge Andrew Hartman, who said Boulder could continue issuing licenses. Colorado has a gay marriage ban that was put in place by voters in 2006, but Hartman said it was "hanging by a thread" since rulings of another state court and a federal court said Boulder could ignore a federal stay on a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which found states cannot set gender requirements for marriage.

Hartman noted that at least 20 courts around the country have declared such bans unconstitutional.

Boulder has issued approximately 120 licenses and Denver, 40 since June 25, when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Utah's ban on gay marriage.

Ortiz issued 25 marriage licenses to same sex couples on Friday.

"I'm proud to be part of this," he said. "We can't pick and choose who will have rights. I think this is one of the final civil rights issues out there."

El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams is not issuing licenses.

His stance is that while legal appeals are still happening same sex marriage is still technically illegal in Colorado, spokesman Ryan Parsell said Thursday in an email.

"With legal appeals still pending we feel it is our responsibility to continue to uphold the law as it is," Parsell wrote.

Same sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. But Utah is challenging the 10th circuit ruling and could be headed for the Supreme Court on the issue, according to news reports.

A half dozen couples were at the Pueblo courthouse when the doors opened at 8 a.m. Some said they had been so excited after hearing the news on Thursday evening that they had not slept all night.

As they crowded up to the counter, Michael Ross, a Colorado Springs registered nurse, who was there with his partner Randy Romero, a stay-at-home dad, joked with the others, "Come on up the water is fine."

They have five adopted children. Their son, Jason, 8, who was with them, wanted to buy a wedding cake when they went shopping the night before.

"We said we have to wait a while for the party. But we wanted to get the license today because they might shut the legal door again," Randy said.

Michael said they've known each other for 18 years.

"I didn't think this day would ever come," he said.

Debrah Crippen-Menefee and Lynn Crippen-Menefee, of Wetmore met at a nuclear weapons protest in Nevada 18 years ago.

"All these years, we kept saying a piece of paper doesn't matter," Lynn said. "When we heard we could get a licenses we burst into tears. It does matter for our dignity and the civil rights of those coming up."

JessieFinau, who works for the City of Colorado Springs, and her partner Stephanie Martinez arrived at 7 a.m. Family and friends came along, including Jessie's brothers Derrick, a senior at Widefield High School, and John, an eighth grader at Sproul Junior High, who both pronounced the day "awesome."

After getting their license, Jessie and Stephanie were married in the hall outside the clerk's office.

Dylan Addington an interfaith minister, presided, stumbling a bit when it came to the part: "I pronounce you wife and um, um, wife. Now you can kiss the bride."

It was his first time officiating a same sex marriage. He had it down pat for the second ceremony.

"I'm happy and proud that I could be here," he said.

Stephanie's father Ed Schultz of Pueblo, had tears brimming over.

"I wish them happiness," he said.

Jessie's father, Taka Finau of Colorado Springs, said, he too is happy for his daughter and new daughter-in-law.

"It's been a struggle for the nation to come to this point and now I hope we move on," he said.

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