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How Today’s Supreme Court Ruling Made Colorado a Marriage Equality State

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Marriage equality is now the law of the land in Colorado! This morning, the United States Supreme Court declined to review seven cases involving marriage equality decisions. By declining to hear the cases, this gave the legal effect of marriage equality in Colorado and several other states. County clerks around the state are now scrambling to update computer systems and begin issuing licenses. Some counties, including Pueblo County, have already started issuing licenses.

The Supreme Court is not bound to hear every case that requests an appeal. An appeal to the Supreme Court is known as a petition for a writ of certiorari, or “cert” for short. At least four of the nine Justices must agree to “grant cert” or accept jurisdiction over the appeal. If the Justices decline to hear the case, the lower court ruling stands. The denial of cert in those seven cases affects a total of eleven states. Marriage equality is now recognized in 30 states plus the District of Columbia.

Under the federal appeals system, Colorado sits in the Tenth Circuit, along with Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Two of the seven cases that were requesting cert originated in the Tenth Circuit. Utah’s case, Herbert v. Kitchen, and Oklahoma’s case, Bishop v. Smith, both had rulings from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that those states’ bans on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional. The decisions were stayed, pending a request for cert before the Supreme Court.

Because the Supreme Court declined to hear those appeals, the rulings of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will stand as the law in all of the states in the Tenth Circuit, including Colorado.

Also this morning, the Colorado Attorney General, John Suthers, announced that Colorado will abide by the ruling. Additionally, he has ordered all county clerks to prepare to issue marriage licenses, regardless of the gender of the parties, as soon as the Tenth Circuit issues its mandate, or order. While a few housekeeping issues remain, such as the mandate from the Court of Appeals, and injunctions filed against county clerks, the issue of marriage equality is effectively settled in all states sitting in the Tenth Circuit. The housekeeping items and orders are expected to be issued without delay.

For immigration clients, this means that the federal government will recognize marriages that take place in Colorado. Travel outside of the state for the purposes of marriage is no longer necessary. Congratulations Colorado!

Bryon M. Large, Sr. is a Senior Associate Attorney at Kolko & Associates, P.C., a Denver-based full service immigration law firm. He is licensed to practice law by the Colorado Supreme Court and has also been admitted by the United States District Court for the District of Colorado and the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Denver and his undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico. Bryon actively practices removal defense, federal litigation, family-based and employment-based immigration, asylum and naturalization.

Bryon is a past Chapter Chair for the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), as well as a Past Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the Colorado Bar Association. He currently serves as the President of the Colorado LGBT Bar Association, an Elected Director on the AILA Board of Governors, and is a member of the National LGBT Bar Association.

Bryon’s true passion in life is being a father to his two children.

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Kolko & Casey, P.C. is a full service immigration and naturalization law firm providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West, the United States, and the World. Our professional staff speaks English, Spanish, Korean, and Portuguese and we can arrange for translators in any other language.