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U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for legal same-sex marriages in Colorado

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DENVER -- In a watershed moment after a battle that spanned several years in the State Legislature and inside numerous courtrooms, same-sex marriage is about to become legal in Colorado after a decision Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court decided not to take up requests from five states that have had their bans on same-sex marriages overturned by lower courts. That opened the door for same-sex marriages to take place in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin and Indiana.

The decision also affected six other states -- including Colorado -- that fall under U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rulings that struck down same-sex marriage bans.

The ruling affecting Utah's ban came from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in June, and Colorado falls under the 10th Circuit's jurisdiction.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers asked the 64 county clerks for patience in issuing marriage licenses until the State Supreme Court lifts its stay on gay marriages in Colorado. That action could happen as soon as Monday night or Tuesday morning.

RELATED: 10th Circuit Dissolves Stay Motion

“We have consistently maintained that we will abide by the Supreme Court's determination on the constitutionality of marriage laws. By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place," Suthers said in a statement. "We expect the 10th Circuit will issue a final order governing Colorado very shortly. Once the formalities are resolved, clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples.

"We will file motions to expedite the lifting of the stays in the federal and state courts and will advise the clerks when to issue licenses.”

RELATED: John Suthers Statement

Since the 10th Circuit's ruling, it has been a tumultuous period in the state spanning the several courts and counties.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall's office started the battle by issuing same-sex marriage licenses immediately after the ruling, even though the 10th Circuit stayed its decision pending any appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. After some back-and-forth and when Hall's office refused to stop issuing licenses, Suthers took Hall to court.

When a Boulder County judge ruled against Suthers, Denver Clerk and Recorder Deborah Johnson began to allow licenses to same-sex couples, as did the Pueblo County clerk and recorder. A ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals also went against Suthers.

But on July 18, the Colorado Supreme Court ordered Denver County to stop issuing licenses. Three days later, Pueblo County "reluctantly" stopped issuing licenses on its own accord.

On July 23, U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore ruled Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but on July 29, the Colorado Supreme Court ordered a halt to the practice in Boulder County, saying there has been “statewide confusion and legal chaos revolving around same-sex marriage in Colorado.”

Colorado lawmakers lauded Monday's move by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Today marks a historic day on the march towards marital equality," Gov. John Hickenlooper said. "The U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to review the same-sex marriage cases in other states means that 10th Circuit's decision is binding in Colorado.  While there are a few more steps in the process, we are that much closer to declaring marriage equality for all Coloradans.”

“Today marks another important step towards full equality: the Supreme Court declined to take up appeals from gay marriage opponents in five different states," Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, said in a statement before Suthers' announcement. "This means that those five states -- and others including Colorado -- should soon overturn marriage bans. The Colorado Supreme Court should promptly accept this decision and let all loving couples choose to marry freely. And the day is soon coming that everyone in the nation will enjoy this basic right.”

“Today’s news is a significant victory for marriage equality," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Lakewood. "I am pleased to see county clerks across the state will soon issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples providing the opportunity for all couples in Colorado the freedom to marry the person they love.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, took to Twitter to show his support for the Supreme Court's decision.

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