DE FACTO LEGAL

County Clerks In Missouri and Colorado Go Rogue And Start Issuing Marriage Licenses

marriage-licenseMarriage equality isn’t legal in Missouri or Colorado, but that’s not stopping some county clerks in those states from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In a sign that marriage equality is considered de facto law even where the court cases aren’t finished, clerks in both those states have started issuing marriage licenses even though courts haven’t given them the go ahead.

In Colorado, the county clerk in Boulder decided to issue the marriage licenses in light of the U.S. District Court of Appeals ruling about Utah’s marriage ban. The court’s ruling, which was upheld a lower court ruling striking down the ban, would also apply to Colorado (as well as Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming). However, the court stayed the ruling, so it has yet to take effect.

That hasn’t detered Boulder county clerk Hillary Hall, who began issuing marriage licenses immediately. “Given the 10th Circuit’s recent decision and the numerous other cases on this issue, I would be surprised if a judge in Colorado were willing to invalidate a marriage license simply because the parties to the marriage were the same sex,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, the city issued marriage licenses to a handful of same-sex couples, sticking a thumb in the eye of the state’s marriage ban. “I felt that if we didn’t do these things, and we didn’t do this here in St. Louis, it wouldn’t be done anywhere else in the state of Missouri,” Mayor Francis Slay said.

That put state Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat who supports marriage equality, in the uncomfortable position of seeking an injunction to stop the practice. The court decided to take no action after the city agreed not to issue any more licenses for the time being.

In and of themselves, the actions in Boulder and St. Louis are fairly limited. However, they point to a much bigger issue: many government officials believe that state laws and constitutional amendments banning marriage equality are simply not valid any more. Moreover, they’re willing to act on that belief. It will be another year before the Supreme Court settles the issue once and for all, but in the meantime, plenty more officials will follow suit and start behaving as if marriage equality is the law of the land.