Colorado Judge Strikes Down Centennial State’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban


A state court Judge in Colorado has become the latest jurist to strike down a state law ban on same-sex marriage:

An Adams County District Court judge on Wednesday declared Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, but he immediately stayed his ruling.

Judge C. Scott Crabtree pulled no punches in his 49-page ruling, saying the state’s voter-approved ban “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.”

The ruling makes Colorado the latest in a string of 16 states that have seen their bans on same-sex marriages tossed out by state and federal judges.

The ruling came as another judge in Boulder County considered a request by Attorney General John Suthers to stop a county clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. And last week, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit seeking to challenge Colorado’s gay marriage ban.

Attorneys for 18 plaintiffs — nine couples — from Denver and Adams counties argued that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

“We are ecstatic. There is much cheering in our house,” Sandra Abbott said after Crabtree’s ruling. She and her partner, Amy Smart, were one of the nine couples in the lawsuit. “We waited a long time for this ruling.”

Suthers’ office said it will appeal the ruling.

Crabtree said he “heartily endorses” a recent ruling by a Denver-based federal appeals court in a similar case.

“The Court holds that the Marriage Bans violate plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection guarantees under the Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” Crabtree said in his ruling.

“The existence of civil unions is further evidence of discrimination against same-sex couples and does not ameliorate the discriminatory effect of the Marriage Bans.”

Crabtree also said: “If civil unions were truly the same as marriages, they would be called marriages and not civil unions. If they were the same, there would be no need for both of them.”

The judge acknowledged that his court would not offer the final word on the subject. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently tossed out Utah’s similar ban on gay marriage.

“The final chapter of this debate will undoubtedly have to be written either in Denver, Colorado or Washington, D.C.,” the judge wrote. “While the striking down of laws banning same-sex marriages has been progressing at a rapid rate, it will take time for this issue to be finally resolved.”

As with most of the most recent trial court decisions on this issue, Judge Crabtree’s opinion doesn’t delve into very much new territory on the law involved in this case.  However, it’s significance lies in the fact that it is yet another in the unbroken string of victories for the legal efforts behind the marriage equality movement since the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision and, as with most previous cases, Judge Crabtree stayed his ruling pending appeal. In this case, that appeal would first go to the appropriate state Court of Appeals panel and from there to the state’s Supreme Court, which has the same sort of discretionary appellate jurisdiction in this type of case that the U.S. Supreme Court. After that, the case would go to the U.S. Supreme Court itself, although one imagines there might be a final SCOTUS resolution on this matter before this case gets to that stage.

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that Crabtree was appointed to the bench in 2001 by a Republican Governor, and won his retention election in 2010 with 63% of the vote.

Here’s the opinion:

Brinkman Et Al v. Long Et Al by Doug Mataconis

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    I love that this is now so commonplace and unexceptional that it can sit for 11 hours with no comments.