Just Married: Virginia Issues Licenses to Gay Couples a Few Hours After SCOTUS Announcement

BOULDER, Colo. — The Supreme Court on Monday decided to green-light gay marriage in at least five states — and grease the wheels for more justice in six others — by deciding not to hear any appeals on state gay-marriage bans this year. As the Huffington Post notes, more than 60 percent of the country will soon live in a place open to marriages between two consenting adults, regardless of their sexuality. Reacting to the news, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that, once legal formalities have been addressed, Colorado’s 2006 gay marriage will no longer hold sway in the state. Virginia opened the doors to all couples just hours after the announcement, as Attorney General Mark Herring was quick to instruct the clerks offices across the Commonwealth.

“We have consistently maintained that we will abide by the Supreme Court’s determination on the constitutionality of marriage laws,” Suthers said in a release. “By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit [Appeals Court] ruling in place. We expect the 10th Circuit will issue a final order governing Colorado very shortly. Once the formalities are resolved, clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples.

“We will file motions to expedite the lifting of the stays in the federal and state courts and will advise the clerks when to issue licenses,” he wrote.

Gay couples looking to get hitched will resume streaming into county clerks’ offices today in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin — and other states, too, although perhaps not immediately. The High Court’s decision not to accept petitions filed this year in U.S. Appellate court marriage cases from Oklahoma and Utah in the Tenth Circuit, Indiana and Wisconsin in the Seventh Circuit and Virginia in the Fourth Circuit lifts the stays imposed on the court rulings that found those states’ marriage bans were unconstitutional. The result is that marriage equality has come today to those states.

(Update: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring was the first to act, opening the Commonwealth's clerk offices to all marriages at 1 PM EST, just a few hours after SCOTUS's announcement.)

There will be delayed similar action in states like Colorado, which falls under the jurisdiction of circuit court cases declined to be heard by the Supreme Court today. Those states also include North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Wyoming and West Virginia.

The Colorado Independent profiled the lead plaintiffs in the Utah case last spring.

Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity wrote to say that they were thrilled with the High Court’s decision today.

“Now gay and lesbian couples and their families will never again be subjected to the discrimination and indignity that has caused so much harm, frustration and fear to so many children and families over the years,” Kitchen said in an email. “This is a great day, and we are grateful to everyone who worked so hard to make it possible.”

Judges in state and federal district courts in Colorado this summer found the state marriage ban unconstitutional. But their rulings in the casesBrinkman vs. Adams County and Burns vs Hickenlooper — were stayed pending appeals. State lawyers asked the U.S. Tenth Circuit to hear the Colorado case, but now that step is unnecessary. The Tenth Circuit has already ruled that gay marriage bans are unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court has found no reason to review the decision.

Colorado U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette echoed sentiment coming from marriage equality supporters this morning. She celebrated the High Court’s decision and what it means for Colorado gay couples.

“Today marks another important step towards full equality,” she wrote in a release. “The Supreme Court declined to take up appeals from gay marriage opponents in five different states. This means that those five states – and others including Colorado – should soon overturn marriage bans. The Colorado Supreme Court should promptly accept this decision and let all loving couples choose to marry freely. And the day is soon coming that everyone in the nation will enjoy this basic right.”

Former Colorado Speaker of the House, Mark Ferrandino, who is gay and who championed civil unions in the legislature, sent out a celebratory tweet this morning.

ferrandino marriage tweet

After the Tenth Circuit found Utah’s marriage ban unconstitutional in June, county clerks in Boulder, Denver and Pueblo began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Clerk Hillary Hall in Boulder led the charge, engaging Attorney General John Suthers in a series of legal battles and issuing hundreds of licenses to gay couples before complying with a court order to stop.

Boulder County Clerk spokeswoman Mircalla Wozniak told the Independent that the office has not made any decision yet this morning on whether to begin again issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

“We’re reviewing the [Supreme Court] decision with county counsel,” she said. She followed with an email a half hour later echoing Suthers’s comments.

“Our office will resume issuing same-sex marriage licenses once the legal formalities in Colorado are resolved.”

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