Gay marriage decisions in Colorado stir range of reactions

July 18, 2014
Photo: Jeff and Josh Peterson marriage license(Photo: Courtesy of Josh Peterson and Jeff Lubsen)
Josh Peterson and Jeff Lubsen, who is legally changing his name to Jeff Peterson after the two were married in Denver.

Three Colorado counties are issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, and five more have requested guidance from the state Supreme Court on whether to follow suit. That request is among the latest developments in an eventful few weeks for the future of Colorado's ban on same-sex marriages.

A state judge in Adams County recently ruled that Amendment 43, the 2006 measure to define marriage as between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. Attorney General John Suthers is appealing that decision, but in an interview this week, he acknowledged the law is likely to fall before long.

"I’d say I understand, full well, the emotion surrounding this issue. And I also understand and appreciate the sense of inevitability that Colorado will have same-sex marriage either politically or judicially. That certainly appears to be the case," Suthers said.

A final, full resolution will likely come from judges before long. But the rapid developments of the past few weeks have significantly changed the landscape for gay marriage in Colorado, and those changes mean different things to many people in the state. 

CPR's "Colorado Matters" talked with people -- from a gay couple to the Catholic archbishop of Colorado -- to get their perspectives on the issue.

"Excited," but still waiting

Josh Peterson and Jeff Lubsen got married in Denver last week, after the clerk there started issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Lubsen has decided to take Petersen's last name, but the couple is struggling to get that done legally, showing how many things have to change as Colorado moves toward approving gay marriages.

So I said, let’s walk over to the Social Security Administration building. So we headed over there and present the marriage certificate and the clerk’s starting to enter our information. And then he says well excuse me, and he had to get up, goes back and gets a supervisor. Supervisor comes out, looks at the record, goes back and gets another supervisor. They all kind of come out and they were very kind, but they said, this is the first time we’ve actually tried to do a name change with somebody with a marriage license of same-sex in Colorado. So they had to actually run this by their legal team, and they said this could take four to six weeks. So, we’re kind of just waiting in limbo right now, but I’m excited to soon be a Peterson.

Former clerk feels "validated"
Clela Rorex was clerk and recorder in Boulder County in 1975, when she issued marriage licenses to six same-sex couples -- something she says resulted in "a huge onslaught of hate."  She says neither the Democratic Party nor the women's movement supported her, and as a result, recent developments mean a lot to her. 
I don’t feel vindicated but I do feel validated. Validated to know that what I felt in my being at that time, that it was only right for gay couples to have a stable, normal family relationship if that’s what they wanted to do, has been recognized now by people all over the world, and that’s now thankfully what same-sex couples are getting.
"Plenty of work to do"
Psychotherapist Julie Colwell, who lives in Boulder, specializes in relationships and couples therapy. Her forthcoming book is "The Relationship Skills Workbook," and she has many gay clients and is gay herself. She says she'll miss fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage and the sense of community that being considered "outlaws" has brought. But she adds that the fight isn't over.
Through my career, over the last 26 years... gays and lesbians have had this sense of, 'I can't do this.' When I first started teaching, I would go into a room of gay and lesbian folks, because I teach a lot of workshops, and I would say, 'So, who here has heard you can't have a long-term relationship?' It was universal; everyone walked around believing that to be true. So that is something I'm not sad to give up... [But] that internalized homophobia that we can't do it... I think that's still there. And so I’ll have plenty of work to do in my office supporting gay and lesbian relationships. That’s for sure.
Greater good is "preservation of marriage"

Retired businessman C. Edward McVaney donated $100,000 to the campaign to pass Amendment 43, according to campaign finance records. The amendment, passed in 2006 with 55 percent of the vote, and made same-sex marriage illegal in Colorado.

"Why marriage?"
Ashe McGovern is an LGBT activist who represents a slice of that community -- people who thinks marriage boxes them in.
In general, why marriage? Why are we tying -- particularly the government -- why is the government tying certain benefits like Social Security survivor benefits, or someone's ability to apply for immigration status, to marriage? What does that do to people and families who choose not to get married, who can't get married, whose primary relationship might be to someone that's their aunt or their grandmother, or choose not to get married for other reasons?
Cases fighting Colorado's ban on gay marriage are continuing in state and federal court. In addition to appealing the state court's finding recently, Suthers has asked the state's Supreme Court to stay the federal case, and to stop county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.