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Couples challenge Colorado same-sex marriage ban

Nine same-sex couples on Wednesday filed suit in a state court in Denver, Colorado challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The couples argued that the ban violates their constitutional rights of equal protection and due process. Amendment 43 [text, PDF] of Colorado's state constitution, passed by voters in 2006, defines marriage as being "only a union between one man and one woman." Although the state legislature did pass a law last year which allows for same-sex civil unions, the lawsuit states [Reuters report] that the legal status granted by the law does not give gay and lesbian couples the same legal status as heterosexual married couples. Four of the couples named as plaintiffs have been legally wed in other states, but because Colorado does not recognize their marital status their relationships are viewed as civil unions by the state. The filing of the lawsuit comes after the striking down of same-sex marriage bans in several other states, including Utah, New Mexico and Virginia [opinions, PDF]. Utah's ruling, as well as a similar one from Oklahoma, are scheduled to be reviewed [Denver Post report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] in Denver.

In November a Colorado same-sex couple filed a lawsuit in the Adams Country District Court after they were denied a marriage license from the Adams County Clerk's office in Colorado. In March Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper [official website] signed [JURIST report] the Colorado Civil Union Act [text, PDF], which will allow civil unions for same-sex couples in the state. The legislation explicitly provides same-sex couples with many of the benefits held by married couples, including dependent insurance coverage and the ability to adopt a partner's child. Issues surrounding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] remain controversial throughout the US, in light of two recent US Supreme Court rulings regarding same-sex marriage. In US v. Windsor [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] the Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text]. The ruling did not create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but it entitles couples in lawfully recognized same-sex marriages to certain federal benefits. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the court ruled that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal the district court's order striking down Proposition 8 [text, PDF; JURIST news archive], California's same-sex marriage ban. Legal scholars argue [JURIST commentary] that the recent decisions will open the door to increased litigation due to the rulings' effects on federal and state law.

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