Boulder Moves Forward With Gay Marriage Licenses, Legal Uncertainty Aside
BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - This time, to them, it was for real.
After seeking recognition four times for their relationship, Andie Lyons and Laurie Lynch obtained marriage licenses in Boulder County on Thursday morning.
The ceremony wasn’t lavish. The Denver women sat at office desks in front of computer monitors, side-by-side with other couples wishing to wed after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Utah’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the Boulder marriages aren’t legal because the ruling is on hold, pending any possible appeals. Colorado’s ban on gay marriage stands.
But that didn’t stop Lyons and Lynch, who alongside about 10 other couples, received licenses before 9 a.m.
An employee at the clerk’s office walked the couple through the process.
“So how are you planning on getting married?” the clerk asked.
Lyons paused. “We don’t know,” she said, and then laughed: “We’ve done it so many times already.”
“Not real married,” Lynch interjected.
“Pretend,” Lyons said.
On Thursday, they weren’t pretending.
After five years together, Lyons and Lynch wed — at least in the eyes of the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s office — in a ceremony lush with all the pomp and circumstance only a local county government office can provide. Lyons wore a red and white dress. Lynch donned a black bow tie affixed to a lavender shirt with a checkered pocket.
The clerk was all business, as if it were any other day, any other couple. She explained to Lyons and Lynch: “In Colorado you can have a civil ceremony with a judge. Or you can have a religious ceremony with a minister. Or (…) the groom and bride are the officiants and you can do it right now, too, and it will count as being married.”
“Woo! Let’s do it!” they exclaimed together.
The paperwork was, well, paperwork.
“Right here,” the clerk said, “I need both of your signatures. And down here we need a title, which will be ‘The parties to the marriage.’ “
Before adding their signatures, Lyons said: “All right. Here we go. Are you ready?”
“I’m ready,” Lynch confirmed.
They wed at 8:14 a.m. Hugs, kisses and applause followed.
“That’s it,” the clerk replied.
Hillary Hall, the Boulder County clerk and recorder, said Thursday she believes the licenses are valid and Suther’s office is wrong.
“We have a difference of opinion,” Hall said. “I consulted with my county attorneys, and we firmly believe these are legal marriages. The 10th Circuit clearly stated that marriage is a fundamental right.”
Hall said the county will continue to issue marriage certificates until it’s told by a Colorado court or the Supreme Court to stop. She said about six couples lined up before the office opened at 7:30 a.m.
Suthers, however, said the issuance of licenses was premature and that Hall wasn’t following the court’s orders.
“You can’t have it both ways,” he told CBS4 on Thursday. “The ruling does impact all the states in the 10th Circuit, but so does the second part of the order, which is a stay of that ruling.”
In other words, clerks need to hold off.
“(Hall is) really acting on her own, and I would hope that she would seek out competent legal advice, and decide this is contrary to law,” Suthers said. “Because regardless of what your emotions are — this is an incredibly emotional topic — public officials should adhere to the rule of law. And she’s not doing that.”
Still, another Denver couple, Levi Healy and Josh Hufford, took advantage of Boulder’s offer. They decided in 15 minutes they’d skip work to get married.
“We decided, yeah, it’s going to be worth it,” Hufford said.
The couple, who have been together two years, said they’d planned on traveling to California in 2014 because it didn’t appear it’d happen in Colorado. But the 10th Circuit’s decision and Boulder’s actions this week changed their minds.
“It’s a very big day for us. To think it’s happened so quickly from when the announcement was made on the website yesterday to now. It still feels surreal. It feels like I’m dreaming. It’s actually real and physically palpable,” Hufford said.
Healy said Colorado is sluggish and overly prudent on the issue.
“Ignorant and slow and maybe little bit cautious,” he said. “I think a lot of legislators and lawmakers in Colorado like to be cautious more than anything because we have a diverse population. I think that caution is old-fashioned, frankly.”
Bylo Farmer and Angie Holley have been together eight years. They didn’t want to wait another day.
“I just thought I’d never be able to get married. This is monumental,” Farmer said.
She said she and Holley had the chance to get married before and didn’t want this week’s opening to close.
“It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. We had a window of opportunity, and it was taken away from us. To us, the window (is now) there,” Farmer said.
The Denver couple said their obtaining a marriage license wasn’t a protest. Rather, it was a belief same-sex marriage would one day be realized in Colorado, despite the legal cloudiness still hovering.
“We believe this is inevitable. And that’s how we’ve been planning,” Holley said. “I asked her to marry me a year and a half ago, and we said, ‘Let’s just keep waiting. Let’s hold out. We know Colorado is going to (legalize it).’ For heaven’s sake, we could have gone to Arkansas or Idaho. You know it’s going to happen in Colorado. It’s really a positive statement that we believe it’s going to be legal really soon.”
After they signed their license, they announced: “So I guess that’s official.” Their friends applauded. Then they embraced. For a long while, Farmer cried on Holley’s shoulder.
- Written by Tim Skillern for CBSDenver.com
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