BOULDER, Colo. -- Boulder County began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples late Wednesday afternoon, citing a decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver striking down a gay marriage ban in Utah. But Colorado's Attorney General says they won't be recognized, at least yet.
Just minutes before the Boulder County Clerk’s Office would normally close its doors for the day, it opened a long-awaited door to same sex couples.
“I’m a little stunned,” said Tracey MacDermott, who rushed to the office just before 4:30 to marry Heather Shockey. “I broke the news to her and then she seemed a bit hesitant after 18 years to come do this. She took a few more minutes with that decision.”
Shockey says she wasn’t questioning the marriage. She had other things on her mind.
“How could we get to Boulder fast enough?” Shockey said.
The couple decided to car pool from Denver with their close friends, who now simply go by Michelle and Wendy Alfredson.
“It’s overwhelming,” Wendy Alfredson said.
“It is, it’s exciting,” Michelle Alfredson said. “I truly didn’t think that this would ever happen in our lifetimes … in my lifetime.”
Michelle admits she began to have hope in the past year, as the number of states allowing same-sex marriage grew to 20. Wednesday, after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ban in Utah is unconstitutional, Boulder County attorneys and clerk Hillary Hall decided to begin issuing licenses because the court’s decisions are binding in Colorado.
“To be able to see them be recognized like everyone else is amazing,” Hall said. “It brings tears to my eyes.”
“It just doesn’t feel like it’s truly happened yet,” Michelle Alfredson said.
It hasn’t happened yet, according to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who said in a statement that the ban in Colorado remains in effect.
"Today’s decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals was stayed by the Court and has not gone into effect even in Utah, let alone in Colorado,” Suthers said. “Any marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Colorado before a final court resolution of the issue are invalid."
Hall says she and the Boulder County attorneys believe the stay issued by the 10th Circuit only applies to Utah.
“We feel the law is behind us on it, so whatever happens, we’ll be ready to defend it,” Hall said. “This is the right decision.”
The women who received their marriage licenses on Wednesday weren’t worried about the Attorney General.
“This will be valid eventually,” MacDermott said.
The Alfredsens agreed.
“It feels like we just ran a marathon but we did it and we finished,” Michelle Alfredsen said.
It’s unclear if the Attorney General will sue to stop Boulder County from issuing marriage licenses, but unless it happens Hall said she intends to keep issuing them Thursday morning. She plans to start doing the same in Lafayette and Longmont on Friday.
Wednesday morning a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a state cannot prevent gay and lesbian people from getting married, ruling 2-1 that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.
The court is also considering a case involving Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage.
Also Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Young in Indiana said the gay marriage ban was unconstitutional because it violated guarantees of equal protection and due process. Gay marriages can happen immediately in the state.
Since DOMA was struck down, 16 federal judges have ruled on the side of gay marriage advocates. Gay marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.
In February of this year, nine same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in state court challenging Amendment 2 arguing that civil unions were a second-class level of citizenship for gays and lesbians.
In 1975, the Boulder County Clerk issued marriage licenses to six same-sex couples before the attorney general intervened, reported the Daily Camera.