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Colorado State Judicial Building
2 East 14
Denver, Colorado 80203
COURT USE ONLY
Case No.: ___SA ___
Boulder County District Court
District Court Judge
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF COLORADO, ex rel.
JOHN SUTHERS, in his official capacity as Colorado
Attorney General, and
THE STATE OF COLORADO,
HILLARY HALL, in her official capacity as Boulder
County Clerk and Recorder,
JOHN SUTHERS, Attorney General
DANIEL DOMENICO, Solicitor General
MICHAEL FRANCISCO, Ass’t Solicitor General
LEEANN MORRILL, First Ass’t Attorney General
KATHRYN A. STARNELLA, Ass’t Attorney General
1300 Broadway, 10
Denver, CO 80203
Phone: (720) 508-6000
Registration Numbers: 32038, 39111, 38742, 43619
PETITION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO C.A.R. 21
DATE FILED: July 27, 2014 8:29 PM
FILING ID: 4EBD8EB8E348F
CASE NUMBER: 2014SA228
Pursuant to Colorado Appellate Rules 21, and Colorado Constitution
article VI, § 3, the People of the State of Colorado ex rel. John Suthers
and the State of Colorado, petition this Court to issue a writ directing
the Boulder Clerk to abide by the same terms as the Denver and Adams
County Clerks and thereby stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses
pending resolution on appeal of the merits. C.A.R. 21(a)(2) (“The
petitioner need not designate a specific form of writ when seeking relief
under this rule.”).
As this Court knows, the statewide confusion and legal chaos
revolving around same-sex marriage in Colorado were detailed in the
Rule 8 proceedings in State, et al. v. Brinkman, et al., No. 2014SA212.
To be sure, the Attorney General had expected that other Clerks, acting
on behalf of the State, would understand that an order directing the
Denver Clerk to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses would counsel
against other Clerks engaging in identical conduct.
was partly fulfilled when the Pueblo Clerk agreed to stop issuing same-
sex marriage licenses, because of the order in Brinkman.
The Respondent Clerk alone continues to issue same-sex marriage
licenses, contrary to current Colorado law, and in contravention of the
See Brinkman Repl. To Emergency Mot. at 11-12 (“[E]ven an order only
directed at the clerks in this case [Denver and Adams Counties], but
mandating that they comply with state law until the Court has ruled on the
merits, would be adequate guidance to other clerks around the state.”)
uniform nature of Colorado’s marriage laws. Accordingly, the State has
had no choice but to pursue an additional court order providing for the
uniform application of Colorado’s marriage laws pending final
determination of the constitutional claims for same-sex marriage.
Before seeking another extraordinary order from this Court the
Attorney General pursued timely motions in the trial court and Court of
Appeals. Those motions were denied, in spite of this Court’s Brinkman
order. See part E, p.5-6 infra. As explained below, if this Court does not
exercise jurisdiction over this case and allows the Boulder Clerk to
likewise continue issuing same-sex marriage licenses, then the
rationale behind the stay in Brinkman would become suspect. Almost
every reason given to order the Denver Clerk to stop would be made a
nullity and the State as a whole would continue to be subject to legal
confusion, needless disputes, all degrading to the rule of law
This Court alone is left to restore order to the legal process in
Colorado. This Court alone has the authority under Rule 21 to issue a
writ necessary to preserve the status quo in Colorado as the important
constitutional claims presented in Brinkman are given due deliberation.
A. Identity of the Parties
The Petitioners are the People and the State. The proposed
Respondent is Hillary Hall, in her official capacity as the Boulder
County Clerk and Recorder.
B. Identity of the Court Below
The Court below is the Boulder County District Court, Colorado, the
Honorable Andrew Hartman presiding. The underlying proceeding is
captioned People of the State of Colorado ex rel. Suthers and the State of
Colorado v. Hillary Hall, No. 2014cv30833.
C. Identity of the Persons Against Whom Relief is Sought
Petitioners seek relief against the proposed Respondent Hillary Hall,
in her official capacity as the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder.
D. Rulings Complaint of and Relief Sought
The State seeks relief from order denying a stay pending appeal
dated July 23, 2014. Ex. 1. Judge Hartman denied the State’s request
for a stay pending appeal to stop the Respondent Clerk from issuing
same-sex marriage licenses in direct contravention of Colorado law, as
appeals are pending on the constitutionality of Colorado’s marriage
The Petitioners seek an order or writ from this Court that is
analogous to the order it issued just last week in Colorado, et al. v.
Brinkman, et al., whereby this Court directed Karen Long from Adams
County and Debra Johnson from Denver County, to stay from issuing
marriage licenses to same-sex couples pending resolution of that
Specifically, Petitioners seek an order or writ directing the
Order, July 18, 2014 (“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that in light of the stay
entered by the Trial Court, Defendants Karen Long, in her official capacity as
Respondent Clerk to stay from issuing same-sex marriage licenses,
pending resolution of the interlocutory appeal, which is pending before
the Court of Appeals in State of Colorado v. Hillary Hall, Case No.
E. Reasons why No Other Adequate Remedy is Available
Proceedings under C.A.R. 21 are appropriate where an appellate
remedy would not be adequate. C.A.R. 21(a)(1); see, e.g., Morgan v.
Genesee Co., 86 P.3d 388, 391 (Colo. 2004); Pearson v. Dist. Ct., 924 P.2d
512, 515 (Colo. 1996). Exercise is discretionary and is governed by the
facts and circumstances of each case. Id.
In this case, original jurisdiction is proper for several reasons. First,
the State has no adequate appellate remedy: attempts to address the
situation by C.R.C.P. 62 motion in the trial court and C.A.R. 8 in the
court of appeals have failed. On July 24, 2014, in a perfunctory order,
the Court of Appeals denied the State’s Emergency Motion for Stay
Pending Appeal, pursuant to C.A.R. 8, on grounds that the State failed
Clerk and Recorder of Adams County and Debra Johnson, in her official
capacity as Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of Denver, are hereby
stayed under C.A.R. 8 from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples
pending resolution of this appeal.”)
The State has no objection to this Court taking jurisdiction of the State v.
Hall, No. 14CA1368l appeal and consolidating it with the State v. Brinkman,
No. 2014SA212 appeal before this Court. See C.A.R. 50(b) (“the Supreme
Court may on its own motion require transfer of the case to it.”). Judicial
economy would favor such consolidation. Even absent consolidation, the Hall
appeal is derivative of the Brinkman case and would likely be decided
to establish that factors for staying an order denying an injunction,
citing Romero v. City of Fountain, 307 P.3d 120, 122 (Colo. App. 2011).
See Ex. 2.
Second, this Court’s original jurisdiction is properly invoked because
the district court abused its discretion in denying the State’s request for
a stay pending appeal, following this Court’s order of a similar stay in
Brinkman. The district court failed to properly appreciate the danger of
real, immediate, and irreparable injury to the State resulting from
continued issuance of same-sex marriage licenses that are void ab initio
under Colorado law. See infra p.17 (citing Lockyer).
Third, relief in nature of prohibition or mandamus is particularly
appropriate “in matters of great public importance,” such as this. See
Smardo v. Huisenga, 412 P.2d 431, 432 (Colo. 1966); Nuesteter v.
District Court, 675 P.2d 1, 2-3 (Colo. 1984) (recognizing that potential
for “irreparable harm” to petitioner is sufficient grounds for Supreme
Court to exercise jurisdiction under Rule 21); see also Peope ex rel Att’y
Gen. v. Richmond, 26 P. 929, 933 (1891) (in context of a writ of quo
warranto the purpose of Article VI, Section 2 is “insure the harmonious
working of our judicial system.”).
The four factors for staying an order denying an injunction are: (1) whether
the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on
the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a
stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other
parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.
Romero, 307 P.3d at 122.
As it stands, the only recourse available to restore order to the legal
process in Colorado is for this Court issuing a writ directing the
Respondent Clerk to be subject to the same order as the Clerks in
F. Issue Presented
In light of the stay entered by the Trial Court and the Supreme
Court in Brinkman et al. v. Long et al. and State v. Brinkman et al.,
should the Respondent Clerk be stayed from issuing marriage licenses
to same-sex couples pending resolution of the appeal in State v. Hall (or
State v. Brinkman, if consolidated)?
G. Facts Necessary to Understand the Issues Presented
Already pending before this Court are the merits of the substantive
question of whether Colorado’s marriage laws, Colo. Const. art. II, § 31,
C.R.S. 14-2-104(1)(b), will stand or fall in the face of constitutional
challenges. See Colorado, et al. v. Brinkman, et al., No. 2014SC212.
Though the district court’s decision on appeal in that case concluded
that Colorado’s non-recognition of same-sex marriage is
The same constitutional questions are also pending in a more recently-filed
federal court action, Burns, et al. v. Hickenlooper, et al., Case No. 14-cv-01817
(D. Colo.), which was brought by same-sex couples who are either married
under other states’ laws or who wish to marry under Colorado’s laws. On July
23, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore preliminarily enjoined
the enforcement or application of Article II, Section 31 of the Colorado
Constitution and C.R.S. §§ 14-2-104(1)(b) and 14-2-104(2), but temporarily
stayed his decision pending an interlocutory appeal. Ex. 3. The Attorney
General intends to seek a longer-term stay from the appellate courts.
unconstitutional, the district court stayed its decision upon finding
“that a stay is necessary to avoid the instability and uncertainty which
could result in the State of Colorado” if no stay was issued. Brinkman
Order at 48, Ex. 4.
While those constitutional questions remain pending for the court,
two things are clear: (a) same-sex couples may not marry under
Colorado law and (b) county clerks and recorders, whose issuance of
marriage licenses is a ministerial duty, have no authority to exercise
their discretion to grant marriage licenses that are not valid under
Colorado’s laws. See n.2, supra. Clerks should be treated equally.
In the interest of uniformity of Colorado’s marriage laws throughout
the State’s 64 counties, the State similarly requests that this Court
order Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall to stop issuing
same-sex marriage licenses until full resolution of People ex rel. Suthers,
et al. v. Hall, No. 2014CV30833 (Boulder County District Court), appeal
pending at State v. Hillary Hall, No. 2014CA1368.
On July 3, 2014, the State and People commenced the underlying
proceedings for declaratory and injunctive relief against Clerk Hall by
filing a verified complaint and motion for temporary restraining order
and preliminary injunction. On July 10, 2014, the district court issued
its order denying the requested preliminary injunctive relief. Ex. 5.
After this Court’s order in State v. Brinkman, the State filed a Notice of
Appeal in the Hall case and moved for a stay pending appeal under
C.R.C.P. 62. The trial court denied the motion on July 23. Ex. 1. That
same day, the State filed an emergency motion for stay pending appeal
pursuant to C.A.R. 8, which the Court of Appeals denied on July 24,
2014. Ex. 2.
The Respondent Clerk thus continues to issue invalid marriage
licenses to same-sex couples. The Respondent Clerk is the only clerk
among Colorado’s 64 clerks who is choosing to issue licenses that violate
H. Reasons to grant Relief
1. Uniformity and this Court’s Order in Brinkman
overwhelmingly favors a stay.
Just last week this Court deliberated on thorough legal arguments
on the question on whether a county clerk should be permitted to
continue issuing same-sex marriage licenses while appeals are pending.
For clerks party to that case, the answer was no. For the clerk party to
this case the answer should likewise be no. 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. The State once again invokes
this Court’s authority to restore order and clarity to Colorado’s
marriage laws and to shore up the judicial branch’s role in adjudicating
important questions of constitutional law.
The Brinkman situation presented this Court with at least seven
legal reasons to enter an order to temporarily stop the issuance of same-
sex marriage licenses:
1. Preservation of the status quo pending appeal,
2. Irreparable harm to the State when invalid licenses are issued,
3. Violation of longstanding ministerial duties of Clerks to follow
valid state law,
4. Preservation of the uniform system of marriage laws,
5. Public interest in an orderly judicial resolution of claims for same-
6. Protection of the public from continued issuance of marriage
licenses that are likely void ab initio, and
7. Lack of any interference with the resolution of the merits from
issuing a stay pending appeal.
Every one of these legal reasons applies with equal force to the Boulder
Clerk. Again, just as with the Rule 8 motion in Brinkman, this Petition
does not ask the Court to resolve the merits of a constitutional right to
same-sex marriage. This direct appeal in Brinkman squarely presents
To be sure, the Boulder Clerk was not a named party in Brinkman,
and the Denver Clerk is not a named party in this lawsuit. The
difference in the caption of this case when compared to Brinkman
should not distract from the simple legal issue before this Court: Should
a Clerk be ordered to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses,
temporarily, while the merits of same-sex marriage is appealed? Yes.
The Brinkman order to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses
powerfully answers this question.
It is not as if the Brinkman lawsuit involves only the actions of the
Denver Clerk. The Plaintiffs in Brinkman fully expect their case to
govern every clerk in the State, and for good reason. The Summary
Judgment Order (likely amended to include an express injunction
if affirmed, require every clerk in Colorado to issue same-sex marriage
licenses. The naming of the Denver Clerk, but not the Boulder Clerk, is
therefore a formality and will not undermine the statewide binding
effect of an injunction against the State. Indeed, since the Boulder
Clerk will be governed by a final decision on the merits in Brinkman
(this cannot be seriously doubted) it makes no sense to treat Boulder’s
actions as entirely distinct in the interim.
Because the Brinkman appeal will resolve, finally and for the entire
State, the question of same-sex marriage licenses being issued, the
Boulder clerk’s unilateral actions are undermining the effectiveness and
fairness of the stay entered in that case. The irreparable harm brought
forth by the State to justify the stay remains unabated. (Marriage
See Unopposed Rule 59 Amendment pending before Brinkman trial court
(“Consistent with this ruling, and subject to the stay entered in this Order,
the State of Colorado, the Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of
Denver, and the Clerk and Recorder of Adams County are enjoined … to
issue marriage licenses and marriage certificates to couples who, but for
their gender, satisfy all of the requirements for marriage under Colorado
law.”) (emphasis added). Ex. 6.
licenses have statewide affect and can be obtained regardless of county
residence.) With the Boulder Clerk empowered to defy state law by the
courts below the preservation of the status quo has been substantially
undermined, if not defeated altogether.
The Boulder Clerk alone has refused to follow Colorado’s still-valid
laws. If a stay is not granted as to the Boulder Clerk, the State is hard
pressed to understand upon what legal basis the Court would justify
upholding the Brinkman stay while not issuing a like order for the
Boulder Clerk. The orderly judicial process and rule of law demand that
the Boulder Clerk be subject to the same limits as the Denver Clerk,
pending a final decision on the merits regarding same-sex marriage in
2. This Court has broad authority to issue a writ in this case.
This Court has the authority to require public officials to perform
duties “required by law or to abstain from the exercise of power without
lawful authority.” People ex rel. Graves v. Dist. Court of Second Judicial
Dist., 37 Colo. 443, 455, 86 P. 87, 90 (1906) (quoting Attorney General v.
Blossom, 1 Wis. 317 (1853)); see also People ex rel. Salazar v. Davidson,
79 P.3d 1221, 1227-28 (Colo. 2003); C.A.R. 21(a)(2). The writs listed in
art. VI, § 3 are high prerogative writs at common law and can be
employed “in proceedings which involve the sovereignty of the state, its
prerogatives or franchises or the liberty of its citizens.” Graves, 37 Colo.
at 460, 86 P. at 92.
This Court will exercise its original power in cases that involve “the
civil rights of the sovereign power of a state, vitally affecting its
character and the proper administration of the government itself, in
which the whole people and every individual member of the community
has a direct, immediate, and most sacred interest, when the exercise of
a public right or a public controversy is the subject matter of
controversy.” People ex rel. Miller v. Tool, 35 Colo. 225, 241-42, 86 P.
224, 229 (1905). “When a case presents an issue of a public nature that
‘affects the whole state, or its government, … then unquestionably it is
the duty of (the Court) to assume original jurisdiction and to issue such
writs as it is empowered to do for the purpose of giving the relief
demanded.’” State ex rel. Norton v. Bd. of County Comm’rs of Mesa
County, 897 P.2d 788, 791 (Colo. 1995) (quoting People v. Kenehan, 55
Colo. 589, 603, 136 P. 1037, 1038 (1913)).
While Colo. Const. art. VI, § 3 does not require specifying the form of
the writ requested, the nature of the relief sought here is akin to a writ
of injunction or prohibition against issuing licenses contrary to law and
a writ of mandamus requiring compliance. Cf Bd. of County Comm’rs of
Mesa County, 897 P.2d at 791 (standards governing writ of mandamus:
the State must show: (1) it is has a clear right to the relief sought, (2)
the respondent has a clear duty to perform the act requested, and (3)
there is no other available remedy.) Our common law has long
recognized that it is appropriate for the Attorney General to petition
this court to enjoin public officials from acting contrary to law. See
People ex rel. Salazar v. Davidson, 79 P.3d at 1231 (discussing the
Attorney General’s common law powers to challenge public officials’
A writ in this instance would be akin to injunctive relief. Generally,
to obtain injunctive relief, a party must prevail on the merits, suffer
irreparable injury, show that the harm to the movant outweighs the
harm to the opposing party and show that the injunction would not be
adverse to the public interest. Romero v. City of Fountain, 307 P.3d 120,
122 (Colo. App. 2011) (adopting federal factors for injunction); Campbell
v. Buckley, 11 F. Supp.2d 1260, 1262 (D. Colo. 1998), aff’d, 203 F.3d 738
(10th Cir. 2000) (same factors). When it is brought on behalf of the
public to benefit the public, however, the party requesting the
injunction must show only that it is correct on the merits. Conway-
Bogue Realty Inv. Co. v. Denver Bar Ass’n, 135 Colo. 398, 409-10, 312
P.2d 998, 1003 (1957); see also Port of New York Auth. v. City of
Newark, 85 A.2d 815, 818-19 (N.J. Sup. Ct 1952).
3. The same reasons favoring a stay in Brinkman apply here.
An order from this Court is necessary to preserve the orderly
procedures and rule of law and enforce the separation of powers
doctrine by allowing the judicial branch to resolve critical questions
about constitutional rights in an orderly manner. Clerks lack the legal
authority to issue marriage licenses on behalf of the State that are
patently contrary to the Colorado Constitution and statutes that define
marriage as the union of “one man and one woman,” while litigation is
pending – with a stay issued by the district court judge. Two lower
courts have now refused to properly remedy this situation.
A. The status quo should be preserved.
This Court should issue a writ to preserve the status quo in Colorado
while the weighty and important questions of constitutional law and
same-sex marriage are deliberated on the merits. Courts have long
understood they have the power to prevent it with simple orders to
preserve the status quo. See, e.g., Merrimack River Sav. Bk. v. Clay
Center, 219 U.S. 527, 536 (1911) (“That the circuit court, to the end that
the status quo might be preserved pending such appeal, had the power
to continue an injunction in force by virtue of its inherent equity power,
is not doubtful.”) Ajax Gold Mining Co. v. Triumph Gold Mining Co., 69
P. 523, 524 (Colo. 1902) (“Where an appeal has in good faith been
perfected, we assume that trial courts will be liberal in allowing an
injunction to preserve the status quo, when, if awarded, the appellees
can be protected against all loss by a sufficient bond, and when, if
refused, the very object of the appeal would be thwarted.”).
An order in this case could simply mirror the stay issued in
Brinkman without prejudicing the eventual decision on the merits. See
Monatt v. Pioneer Astro Indus., 592 P.2d 1352, 1354 (Colo. App. 1979)
(“A stay does not adjudicate rights; it merely preserves the status
quo.”); Valley Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass’n. v. Aspen Accommodations, 716
P.2d 483, 484 (Colo. App. 1986) (“If a party desires to maintain the
status quo pending appeal he may … seek … a stay.”). Indeed, absent a
writ in this case, the Stay issued in Brinkman to preserve the status
quo will be made a nullity.
B. County clerks do not have the authority to issue licenses
that do not comply with state law.
By definition, the issuance of marriage licenses is a ministerial act; it
is “one which the person performs in a given state of facts in a
prescribed manner in obedience to the mandate of legal authority,
without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the
propriety of the act being done.” Hamma v. People, 94 P. 326, 328 (Colo.
1908). Under the Uniform Marriage Act, County Clerks are given the
power to issue licenses by the State on behalf of the State, but only if
the requirements set by the state are met. See C.R.S. §§ 14-2-104,
14-2-106, and 14-2-110. Put another way, if certain requirements are
met, all 64 County Clerks must issue the marriage license; conversely,
if certain requirements are not met (e.g., an individual is under age, or
the couple is not comprised of one man and one woman), County Clerks
must not issue a marriage license. Clerks are authorized to issue
marriage licenses by state law. They are not authorized to pick and
choose which state laws governing that delegated authority they will
Until this Court or the United States Supreme Court finally resolves
the question, Colorado’s Marriage Laws remain in effect. Whether
Colorado’s marriage limitations will survive Constitutional scrutiny in
the final analysis is highly in doubt. But until we reach that final
analysis, the clerks’ actions must be based on the current state of the
law, not what it may be in the future. See Beedle v. Wilson, 422 F.3d
1059, 1069 (10th Cir. 2005) (right violated must be established at the
time of the defendant's actions). See Ex. 5 (Hall Order – finding State
satisfied likelihood of success on the merits based on current law).
Thus, other courts, even those that end up ruling in favor of same-
sex marriage, recognize that until those laws are repealed or overturned
by final court action, local officials have no authority to ignore them. See
Lockyer v. City and County of San Francisco, 95 P.3d 459, 467 (Cal.
2004) (“Pending our determination of these matters, we directed the
officials to enforce the existing marriage statutes and refrain from
issuing marriage licenses or certificates not authorized by such
provisions.”); Dep’t of Health v. Hanes, 78 A.3d 676, 692 (Pa. Commw.
C. Clerks’ ignoring state law prior to judicial rulings causes
irreparable harm and is against the public interest.
Even if the State were required to prove the additional Romero
factors, it would prevail. These factors align with the factors for a stay,
and have already been carefully adjudicated by the Brinkman trial
court. Judge Crabtree recognized that even though he ruled against the
State on the underlying constitutional merits, the State had established
a likelihood of success on the merits for a stay, given the stay issued in
similar litigation by the U.S. Supreme Court and four Federal Courts of
See also Ex. 4 at 46. The same holds true for federal district
courts in Oklahoma, Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Herbert v. Kitchen, 134 S.Ct. 893 (U.S. Jan. 6, 2014) (stay pending appeal
granted); Herbert v. Evans, No. 14A65 (U.S. July 18, 2014) (stay pending
appeal granted); Kitchen v. Herbert, No. 13-4178, slip op. 64-65 (10th Cir.
June 25, 2014) (same); Bishop v. Smith, Nos. 14-5003, 5006 slip op (10th Cir.
July 18, 2014) (stayed pending appeal); Latta v. Otter, No. 14-35420 (9th Cir.
May 20, 2014) (Idaho case - same); DeBoer v. Snyder, No. 14-1341 (6th Cir.
Mar. 25, 2014) (Michigan case - same); see also Tanco v. Haslam, No.14-5297
*2 (6th Cir. April 25, 2014) (Tennessee case) (per curium) (“Because the law
in this area is so unsettled, in our judgment the public interest and the
interests of the parties would be best served by this Court imposing a stay on
the district court’s order until this case is reviewed on appeal.”); Baskin v.
Bogan, No. 14-2386 (7th Cir. June 27, 2014) (Indiana case - granting stay
District Court decisions granting stay: Bishop v. United States, ex rel.
Holder, 962 F. Supp. 2d 1252 (N.D. Okla. 2014); Bostic v. Rainey, No.
2:13cv395, 2014 WL 561978 (E.D. Va. Feb. 13, 2014); De Leon v. Perry, No.
SA-13-CA-00982-OLG, 2014 WL 715741 (W.D. Tex. Feb. 26, 2014); Bourke v.
Beshear, No.3:13-CV-750-H, 2014 WL 556729, at *14 (W.D. Ky. Feb. 12,
2014) (stay granted, noting “[i]t is best that these momentous changes occur
upon full review, rather than risk premature implementation or confusing
changes. That does not serve anyone well”); Henry v. Himes, No. 14-cv-129,
2014 WL 1512541, *1-2 (S.D. Ohio April 16, 2014) (stay pending appeal
granted); Wolf v. Walker, No. 14-cv-64-bbc, 2014 WL 2693963 *12 (W.D. Wis.
June 13, 2014) (“I do not interpret Geiger as undermining the Court’s order in
Since this Court deliberated on the Brinkman Rule 8 motion, in fact,
additional courts have issued stays in marriage cases – making the
precedent even stronger in favor of a stay. See n.7.
Permitting one clerk to ignore some state laws while using the power
granted by other state laws causes significant irreparable harm to the
state and the public interest. There are at least five types of harm that
letting this lone clerk’s actions go unchecked will cause.
First, there is the inherent harm courts have uniformly recognized in
rejecting duly enacted laws. See Coalition for Econ. Equity v. Wilson,
122 F.3d 718, 719 (9th Cir. 1997); O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao
De Vegetal. v. Ashcroft, 314 F.3d 463, 467 (10th Cir. 2002); Planned
Parenthood of Greater Tex. Surgical Health Servs. v. Abbott, 134 S.Ct.
506, 506 (2013); New Motor Vehicle Bd. v. Orrin W. Fox Co., 434 U.S.
1345, 1351 (1977) (Rehnquist, J., in chambers) (“It also seems to me
that any time a State is enjoined by a court from effectuating statutes
enacted by representatives of its people, it suffers a form of irreparable
injury.”). Ex. 4 at 47.
Second, the harm caused by the confusion the clerk’s action has
caused is real and widespread. As Judge Crabtree noted, “The public
has an interest in the orderly determination of the constitutionality of
its laws and granting a stay will effectuate that end.” Id. Judge
Herbert...Because I see no way to distinguish this case from Herbert, I
conclude that I must stay any injunctive relief pending appeal.”).
Crabtree expressly noted that a stay was “necessary to avoid the
instability and uncertainty which would result in the State of Colorado
if the Court did not stay its ruling,” noting with disfavor the “continued
issuance of marriage licenses in Boulder” as the type of instability and
uncertainty that should be avoided. Id. at 48 n.18 (emphasis added).
Third, same-sex marriage licenses issued prematurely cannot be
isolated, as Judge Hartman seemed to hope. The continued issuance of
invalid same-sex marriage licenses harms the State by forcing other
divisions of the State to recognize, contrary to the current law and
constitution, the legal validity of the improperly issued licenses. See
C.R.S §§ 14-2-109(1) (“Either the person solemnizing the marriage or…a
party to the marriage shall complete the marriage certificate form and
forward it to the county clerk and recorder[.]”); 14-2-109(3) (“Upon
receipt of the marriage certificate, the county clerk and recorder shall
register the marriage.”); 25-2-106 (“Each county clerk and recorder shall
prepare a report…with respect to every duly executed marriage
certificate that is returned in accordance with 14-2-109, C.R.S. On or
before the tenth day of each month…such clerk and recorder shall
forward to the state registrar all such marriage reports for all marriage
certificates returned in the preceding period.”); 25-2-104 (“Promptly
upon the receipt of each vital statistics report..., the state
registrar…shall register the statistical event described therein…and
shall place the same…in the permanent files of the office.”).
So whatever licenses Clerk Hall submits will become part of the
record that the State recognizes. The system is dependent on clerks’
carrying out their duties pursuant to law; it does not contemplate
having to second-guess their compliance. Thus, Clerk Hall’s actions
effectively mean that the State itself is being forced to violate its own
laws by recognizing marriages that are not – at least not yet – valid.
Fourth, third parties rely on this system for various reasons. To be
sure, practical, real-world harm will result from third-parties’ –
including the courts, private corporations, and other governmental
entities – unknowing reliance on the invalid marriage licenses currently
being issued in the name of the State. For example, the following acts
turn on the ability to prove the existence of a valid marriage: (1)
establishing spousal benefits under the Social Security Act; (2)
obtaining a legal name change on a driver’s license, passport, social
security card, or other government-issued identification; (3) establishing
the presumptive legitimacy of children; (4) establishing relationships
necessary for determining probate, inheritance, and unclaimed property
matters; (5) establishing eligibility for health, life, and disability
insurance coverage and benefits; and (6) establishing the existence of a
legal marriage in dissolution proceedings for purposes of spousal
support and/or maintenance, child support, the division of marital
assets; and the custody of minor children. In short, because the
legalization of marriage turns on the performance of ministerial acts by
both State and county officials, the single County Clerk’s issuance of
invalid marriage licenses sends ripples of harm throughout our society
that cannot be undone by the State either easily or with absolute legal
Fifth, if this Court refuses to use its broad powers, see C.A.R. 21,
Colo. Const. art. VI, § 3, to ensure that government officials carry out
their ministerial duties while controversial litigation is ongoing, it will
provide perverse and dangerous incentives. Clerks, like the Pueblo
Clerk, who previously understood this Court’s stay in Brinkman to
indicate that clerks should not prematurely issue same-sex marriage
licenses may well take a denial of relief in this case as a strong signal
that clerks can or should issue same-sex marriage licenses. Denial of
relief would, in general, affirm that state officials can ignore laws they
personally find disagreeable. What about a sheriff who believes limits
on felons or minors obtaining a concealed carry permit violates the right
to bear arms? A DMV clerk who does not believe undocumented
immigrants are entitled to a driver’s license? Both would be encouraged
to put their personal opinions above their duties to follow the law
should this Court decline to act.
D. The public interest overwhelmingly favors a writ.
Each day that one clerk continues to issue same-sex marriage
licenses – and publicly declare those licenses’ validity, despite the State
Marriage Laws and the Attorney General’s statements to the contrary –
greater social and legal chaos ensues because the public is left confused
and uncertain about the legal validity of such marriages and the role of
clerks versus the role of the courts or other government officials in
determining whether to enforce state law.
Coloradans’ confidence in their government diminishes in view of the
fact that, as public officers, County Clerks are refusing to abide by and
enforce still-valid Colorado laws.
The public confidence is also irreparably undermined by the fact
that, as public officers, County Clerks who issue marriage licenses to
same-sex couples are issuing false certificates, in further violation of
Colorado law. See C.R.S. § 18-8-406 (stating that “a person commits a
class 6 felony, if, being a public servant authorized by law to make and
issue official certificates or other official written instruments, he makes
and issues such an instrument containing a statement which he knows
to be false.”); see also People v. Buckallew, 848 P.2d 904 (Colo. 1993)
(concerning the statute’s application to county officials).
This is not to ignore the harms to couples who, if the State is wrong
on the ultimate constitutional merits, have been denied the right to a
government marriage certificate. One can understand and sympathize
with the desire to shortcut the normal processes and get that certificate,
even if it comes with the disclaimer or cloud of legal uncertainty. But
that is not enough to overcome the reasons that favor the Court’s
temporarily suspending the issuance of licenses while this appeal on the
merits plays out. Indeed, the moving concerns of same-sex couples in
Colorado are not unlike the concerns of same-sex couples around the
United States, and those couples are, pursuant to the standard legal
process, awaiting a final judicial determination before same-sex
marriage licenses are issued.
Most importantly, even if the State does prove to be wrong on the
constitutional merits, that will not mean that prematurely issued
certificates will be validated. See Lockyer, 95 P.3d at 496-97
(“[Accordingly, we view Family Code section 300 itself as an explicit
statutory provision establishing that the existing same-sex marriages at
issue are void and invalid.”).
The effect of the Respondent Clerk’s actions and the litigation below
is that the State itself is being required to recognize as legal these
certificates issued contrary to current law. That may well be the effect
of a final judicial decision on the merits (Brinkman); but that inherently
judicial power to declare the state’s laws unconstitutional, Colorado
Gen. Assembly v. Lamm, 704 P.2d 1371, 1379 (Colo. 1985) (noting that
the “interpretation of the constitution is a function at the very core of
the judicial role”), should not be wielded by county clerks. See Colo.
Const. art. VI, § 1 (“the judicial branch of Colorado government is
empowered to construe the constitution’s meaning”); Bd. of County
Comm’rs v. Vail Assoc., 19 P.3d 1263, 1272 (Colo. 2001). That some
lower courts are allowing that to occur while others do not only
highlights the confusion that exists today.
Again, the relief requested in this motion will not decide the merits
of claims for a federal right to same-sex marriage that would invalidate
Colorado’s Constitution and statutes – those substantial and weighty
claims will be decided for Colorado either by the federal courts, where
Colorado has now been sued and will be bound by the outcome of a Utah
case in Kitchen v. Herbert, or by this Court in Brinkman (subject to
petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court by the loser). Either way, the
merits can and should be decided in due course for all of Colorado. The
relief here requested, however, is immediately necessary to preserve the
status quo pending those appeals and to affirm the legal responsibility
of county officials to comply with Colorado law.
Everywhere – except a single county in Colorado – the common
judicial tool of issuing a stay pending final resolution has been effective
in preventing state clerks from issuing marriage licenses that may not
be valid. In fact, clerks in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Utah had
issued marriage licenses before a stay was granted, but ceased once a
stay was issued. Mot. at n.6 (citing cases). The Denver Clerk and Pueblo
Clerk in Colorado were issuing same-sex marriage licenses prior to this
Court’s stay in Brinkman. Only the Respondent Clerk has ignored the
legal effect of a stay and acted to nullify state law without legal
The Attorney General recognizes that this is an extraordinary
request, but there is no question this is an extraordinary situation. The
broad powers of Article VI and Rule 21 exist for the rare and
exceptional circumstances such as this. See Salazar v. Davidson, 79
P.3d 1221, 1227-28 (Colo. 2003). The question before this Court is
simple: should a single county clerk issue same-sex marriage licenses
before the federal constitutional question has been settled? No.
Uniformity of Colorado law and basic fairness demand as much.
Respectfully submitted this 27th day of July, 2014.
JOHN W. SUTHERS
s/ Michael Francisco
Assistant Solicitor General
Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant
*Counsel of Record
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
This is to certify that I have duly served the foregoing
PETITION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO C.A.R. 21 upon the
following parties or their counsel electronically via ICCES, or via
electronic mail, at Denver, Colorado this 27th day of July, 2014,
addressed as follows:
David E. Hughes
M. Brooke McKinley
BOULDER COUNTY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
P.O. Box 471
Boulder, Colorado 80306
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