Colorado’s constitution still forbids same-sex marriage – voters may be asked to change that

Pride Month Same Sex Couple Marrriage Licenses
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To commemorate Pride month during the month of June, Jefferson County offers rainbow-colored seals and commemorative pens for same-sex couples getting marriage licenses.

Updated at 1:41 p.m. on April 29, 2024

Colorado voters will likely decide whether to remove a ban on same-sex marriage from the state constitution this November.

The Colorado Senate overwhelmingly voted 29-5 on Monday, April 29, 2024, to send the measure to the ballot, with only a handful of Republicans dissenting. That was more than enough to clear the supermajority requirement for such amendments. Next, it heads to the House where it is likely to enjoy similarly strong support.

Our original story continues below.

It’s been nine years since a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

That included Colorado, of course. But despite the court’s ruling and nearly a decade of weddings, the state’s constitution still contains obsolete language that forbids same-sex marriage.

The state’s constitution reads: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

Sen. Joann Ginal, a Democrat, has proposed an amendment to formally get rid of that ban.

She has introduced a ballot measure that would ask voters to amend the constitution and remove the “one man and one woman” language. If she can win enough support in the legislature, the question could then go before statewide voters this November. 

Ginal declined to comment on the resolution Monday, saying she was still working with stakeholders.

Some supporters of same-sex marriage have been concerned since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling two years ago. In a concurring decision, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the reasoning the court applied in striking down Roe v. Wade should also lead it to reevaluate other past rulings, including Obergefell-v-Hodges, which established the right to marriage equality.

Ginal’s measure, titled “Protecting the Freedom to Marry,” would have to gain supermajority support in the legislature before it can appear on the ballot. In the House, Democrats have the votes to pass the measure on their own, but in the Senate, at least one Republican would have to vote yes. Republican leadership hasn’t taken a strong position on the bill yet.

“We’ll have to wait until second-reading debate to see how much support/opposition there is,” wrote Josh Bly, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, in a text message to CPR News. “I tell you honestly that we do not know where our members are on it yet.”

Same-sex marriage may not be the only rights question on the ballot — it could join a measure to guarantee abortion rights. Supporters said they gathered 232,000 signatures for an amendment that would put a right to abortion access in the state constitution if it is approved by voters this November.

The marriage amendment would require a simple majority of 50 percent to pass, since it is only repealing a past provision. The abortion access amendment would have to clear a 55 percent threshold, since it is adding language to the constitution.

Editor's note: This article was updated April 29, 2024 to correct the threshold for passage of the marriage amendment.