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Ruling Gives More Legal Standing To Challenge Gay Marriage Ban

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People celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

People celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – Supporters of gay marriage are celebrating two landmark rulings from the Supreme Court.

In the first ruling, the court struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, known as “DOMA.” The decision means same-sex spouses will be able to receive certain federal benefits in states where gay marriage is legal.

The high court also dismissed an appeal regarding California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. The ruling means same-sex marriages are likely to resume in California.

The rulings mean those who want to challenge Colorado’s ban on gay marriage have more legal standing, but it does not mean gay couples can now marry in Colorado, or take advantage of tax breaks and federal benefits like Social Security. The high court’s rulings only applies to the 13 states that have legalized gay marriage.

“Our Constitutional amendment still stands, and with that the only way to be able to change state statute and the constitution is to get something to the ballot,” said Democratic Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, who is gay.

Ferrandino says the Legislature could refer a measure to the ballot, but it would take a two-thirds majority vote, which he admits is unlikely. Supporters will either have to petition to get it on the ballot, or take it to the courts.

“So it really is a roadmap for future litigation in Colorado and elsewhere,” constitutional law expert Susannah Pollvogt with the University of Denver said.

Pollvogt filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA. She expects legal challenges arguing Colorado’s ban is separate but equal discrimination.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Denver says regardless, it will continue to define marriage as between a man and woman.

“This is very critical moment in the history of our society because we are redefining the very fabric of what holds our families together,” Karna Swanson with the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver said. “There will be consequences to that … the fight is not over and the debates are not over.”

But supporters of gay marriage say it’s a major win in the battle.

“I think by the end of decade we’ll probably see full marriage equality throughout the country,” Ferrandino said.

What the court left unclear in its rulings is whether couples who get married in another state — where it’s legal — and then move to Colorado are still entitled to benefits. Colorado legalized civil unions for gay couples this year, but unlike marriage, a civil union only affords rights under state law.

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