DENVER -- The Clerk and Recorder's Office in Denver County began issuing same-sex marriage licenses Thursday.
Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson, who is gay, first said that her office will start issuing marriage licenses until 4:30 p.m.
Mayor John Hancock said he supports Johnson's decision.
"As a city, we have stood together against injustice and for the rights of all people," Hancock said. "Today, I fully support Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson in her issuing of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who simply want the freedom to be united with the ones they love. I stand proudly with her as we take another step toward marriage equality for every single resident of this great city."
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette also issued a statement supporting Johnson's decision, noting that "marriage is challenging yet rewarding, and everyone deserves to have their relationship recognized under the law."
The decision to issue the licenses comes on the same day that a Boulder District judge ruled that the Clerk and Recorder there can continue issuing licenses despite efforts by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to stop it.
Suthers sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent Boulder Clerk and Recorder Hilliary Hall from continuing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Judge Andrew Hartman denied that request.
Hartman's ruling gave Denver legal cover, said Clerk and Recorder spokesman William Porter.
"Now, thanks to Clerk Hall's bravery, we can issue licenses today," Porter told the Denver Post.
Hall has issued about 120 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since June 25, the day the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is located in Denver, struck down Utah’s ban on gay marriage.
Suthers has said those licenses are invalid because the 10th Circuit put a stay on its ruling anticipating an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Suthers and Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, both agree that the state won’t fight to defend its gay marriage ban but that clerks should wait to issue licenses until there’s legal clarity on the issue.
That sentiment was repeated by Suthers in a statement he released Thursday afternoon saying, "It is paramount that we have statewide uniformity on this issue and avoid the confusion caused by differing county-by-county interpretations."
"Therefore, we will act swiftly in an attempt to prevent a legal patchwork quilt from forming," Suthers said.
In Boulder, the ruling by Hartman came on the condition that courts find Hall had the proper authority. That will likely make licenses issued by Boulder County in legal limbo until higher courts rule on Colorado's same-sex marriage ban.
During a news conference Hall said she will continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“This is my job,” Hall said. “And I’m going to continue moving forward and doing it.”
Wednesday, a judge in Adams County that Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.
District Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled that the arguments for keeping the ban, that marriage is about the “protection of families” and “procreation of children”, are “recently fabricated” arguments for the purpose of denying that discrimination is occurring.
Scott also stayed his decision saying an appeal was likely.
Late Thursday evening, Hickenlooper, who is attending meetings of the National Governors Association in Nashville, told FOX31 Denver that he supports Crabtree's decision and is urging Suthers not to appeal it any further than the Colorado Supreme Court.
"I remain a strong advocate for marriage equality," Hickenlooper said. "The decision on marriage by Judge Crabtree puts Colorado on the right side of history.
"I have urged the attorney general not to appeal Judge Crabtree's ruling. If he feels he needs to continue to defend this discriminatory law, I urge him to seek final resolution at the Colorado Supreme Court."AlertMe