Nine gay couples sued to overturn a Colorado ban on same-sex marriages, adding to a surge of litigation across the U.S. challenging such laws as violations of due-process and equal-protection rights.
“Colorado’s refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry within the state, as well as its refusal to recognize the validity of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples violates multiple guarantees of the United States Constitution,” the couples said, according to a copy of the complaint provided by Bob Weiss, a spokesman for one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
The filing couldn’t be independently confirmed with the state court in Denver.
Litigation over state gay-marriage bans is playing out against the backdrop of a June Supreme Court decision invalidating part of a federal law that limited U.S. recognition to marriages made up of one man and one woman. Since that decision, four judges have overturned state bans on same-sex unions. Three of those decisions are on hold pending appeal.
The Colorado couples, some of whom are married in other states, are seeking a court order halting enforcement of the ban on same-sex marriages and requiring the state to issue licenses to the plaintiffs who seek to get married. They also want Colorado to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.
A 2006 amendment to the Colorado constitution limits valid marriages to only those between a man and a woman. The state last year legalized same-sex civil unions, which carry rights similar to those of marriage. Couples in civil unions can transfer and inherit property, make medical decisions for each other and are eligible for family leave and public assistance.
“This litigation does not come as a surprise and as a matter of constitutional law we appreciate that the courts will take it up,” Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement. “On the underlying question of equal rights, we believe Colorado made a step forward when we passed bipartisan civil unions legislation last year.”
Same-sex marriage has been legalized in 17 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. Challenges to same-sex marriage bans are pending in states including Wisconsin, Virginia, Idaho, Florida and Alabama. In Michigan, a non-jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 25 in federal court in Detroit.
The case is McDaniel-Miccio v. State of Colorado, 2014CV30731, District Court, City and County of Denver, Colorado.