Pueblo County Begins Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Friday

The Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder's Office began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Friday.

Could Colorado be the next state to make same-sex marriage completely legal?

Colorado appears to be one step closer to becoming the 21st state to legalize gay marriage with the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder's announcement that he would start issuing same sex marriage licenses Friday morning.

Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz said in a news release that after careful consideration of the recent rulings, he will follow suit with Boulder and Denver Counties.

Wednesday, Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman said the Boulder county clerk could ignore a stay on an appellate ruling that found states cannot set gender requirements for marriage, and could continue to grant marriage licenses to gay couples despite the state's same-sex marriage ban.

“No court has upheld the constitutionality of marriage bans for 23 consecutive rulings – at state or federal levels all over the nation – that’s significant and can’t be ignored. Denying constitutional rights is an untenable position and I have to respect the Constitution, the courts and move forward,” Ortiz said in a statement.

It's a step in the right direction, supporters told 11 News.

"I think it's great. I think everybody should be able to marry the person they love. I think it's a wonderful thing," Pueblo resident Andrea Thompson said shortly after the decision was made to allow same-sex marriage licenses.

"It's wonderful that yet another municipality can say we are going to do the right thing and issue a gay marriage license...basically saying marriage equality has begun to arrive," Charles Irwin, the Pride executive director, said.

The decision didn't sit well with opponents of same-sex marriage.

“Colorado voters followed the law when they passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage in 2006. The Boulder clerk is disregarding that law by issuing these licenses. Since when does a county clerk get to decide state law, or declare a state definition of marriage? This is legal anarchy," Carrie Gordon Earll, the senior director for public policy at Focus on the Family, said in a statement.

The road to Boulder County--and later Denver and Pueblo counties--decision to give out marriage licenses to same-sex couples started a few weeks ago in Utah. A federal appeals court in our region ruled the Utah ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The ruling stated a state "may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union."

Within hours after that ruling, Boulder County started issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The county has given out 100 so far.

The attorney general said to stop, but the Boulder County clerk and recorder kept issuing them anyway, saying if you can't ban same-sex marriage, then it must be legal.

"I need to make sure I don't violate someone's constitutional rights, and that's what we're talking about here: fundamental rights," Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall said.

The attorney general is suing Boulder to order them to stop giving out these licenses. Despite that, Denver County--and now Pueblo County--have joined in too.

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office says it will wait for the situation to be "legally resolved" before they begin issuing the licenses too.

"Technically speaking, same-sex marriage is still illegal in Colorado," the office told 11 News. The office did not have any comment about what the other counties were doing.

Focus on the Family maintained that the counties giving out marriage licenses were going against the wishes of most Coloradans.

"Colorado voters understand marriage is about more than who you love. It’s about bringing together the two halves of humanity which are male and female, not gay and straight. That’s the law in Colorado," Earll said.

A legal resolution can't come fast enough for El Paso County resident John Sinko, who said he had to fly to another state last year in order to marry his boyfriend.

"It was frustrating...knowing that our rights to live as free people in this great nation is...violated by politicians that run this state," he said. Nonetheless, he said his wedding in New York was the happiest moment in his life.

Sinko said he was heartened by the recent developments.

"We made small progress and we have a lot more to do...a lot more."

Pueblo County began issuing same-sex marriage licenses at 8 a.m. A County Employee volunteered to marry any couple who wanted to. They conducted those ceremonies inside the county courthouse.

On Friday, the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder tweeted that they issued 25 marriage licenses to same-sex couples.