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Colorado Supreme Court halts gay marriages in Boulder County amid state's pending appeal

DENVER - Boulder County must stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples while the Colorado Supreme Court considers an appeal from the state's attorney general, justices said in a ruling Tuesday.

The court ruling was in response to an appeal from Republican Attorney General John Suthers, who has been trying for several weeks to get Boulder's clerk to stop giving marriage licenses to gay couples until there's a definitive ruling on same-sex unions from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The same court previously ruled in Suthers' favour in ordering Denver to stop issuing licenses, but that ruling didn't apply to Boulder.

Boulder was the first Colorado county to begin giving licenses to gay couples in June after the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Utah's same-sex marriage ban. That ruling was put on hold pending appeal. Along with Utah, the 10th Circuit includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

The state's high court said it will take up Suthers' appeal asking for same-sex marriage licenses to stop, pending litigation regarding gay-wedding bans.

Suthers has said the state's laws need to be enforced until there's a decisive court ruling.

Boulder Clerk Hillary Hall has argued, however, that the guidance from several courts that have overturned state bans is clear, and a final, favourable outcome for gay marriages is inevitable. Boulder's attorneys have told Suthers that they believe Hall would be violating people's constitutional rights by refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the meantime.

But after Tuesday's order, Hall said she would stop.

"I am disappointed by the Colorado Supreme Court's stay, but I will comply with the order," Hall said in a statement. "Given the avalanche of recent cases determining that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, I am hopeful the stay will be short-lived and that we will be able to resume issuing licenses soon."

The state Supreme Court said all documents related to the case must be turned over by Oct. 20.

As of Tuesday, Boulder County had issued 202 marriage licenses to gay couples.

In addition to Boulder and Denver, Pueblo County also briefly issued licenses to same-sex couples, but Pueblo stopped after the state Supreme Court ordered Denver to halt the practice.

Suthers and Boulder County have spent weeks in back-and-forth legal wrangling as Suthers has tried unsuccessfully through lower courts to get the county stop allowing gay weddings.

Suthers' office said in its filing Monday to the state's high court concerning Boulder that unless the Colorado Supreme Court steps in, the earlier ruling affecting Denver will be undermined.

"There is no sound judicial reason for the Denver Clerk to be prevented from issuing same-sex marriage licenses (temporarily), while at the same time allowing the Boulder Clerk to issue the same licenses," Michael Francisco, the assistant solicitor general, said in the filing.

In a separate case, a federal judge in Denver ruled July 23 that that state's 2006 voter-approved ban is unconstitutional. But the judge put his ruling on hold to give the state until Aug. 25 to seek a stay, pending resolution by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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