In the 49-page ruling, District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree determines Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage cannot stand based on judicial precedent, finding that the state’s civil unions law is insufficient for gay couples within the state.
“The Court holds that the Marriage Bans violate plantiffs’ due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Crabtree writes. “The existence of civil unions is further evidence of discrimination against same-sex couples and does not ameliorate the discriminatory effect of the Marriage Bans.”
Appointed by former Gov. Bill Owens in 2001, Crabtree becomes the latest in a series of Republican judges to overturn a state ban on same-sex marriage. Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act, more than 20 courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality.
The decision is stayed pending appeal of the lawsuit, so no same-sex weddings will take place in Colorado as a result of the ruling.
The lawsuit, known as Brinkman v. Long, was filed in October 2013 by attorneys from Wilcox & Ogden, P.C. and Thomas Russell, who sued the state on behalf of a same-sex couple. Oral arguments in the case were heard on June 16, 2013.
The litigation is different from the lawsuit that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers filed against Boulder Colorado County Clerk Hillary Hall for distributing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She claims authority to do so because of the 10th Circuit ruling against Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. Another court heard this case on Wednesday and is expected to deliver a ruling soon.
Among those celebrating the victory was gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who praised the win following objection to the version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that he sponsors in the House because of its religious exemption.
“I am thrilled that Judge Crabtree has recognized that the Colorado ban on same sex marriage is a violation of due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendment,” Polis said. “More than that, he has recognized, as many of his peers across the country have, that marriage should be an institution of love and commitment, not prohibition and discrimination. I look forward to his ruling being upheld by the higher courts, and am confident marriage equality in Colorado is within sight.”