Jul 11, 2014 1:39 AM by Maddie Garrett

Equal Rights Groups Call Gay-Marriage Decision in Pueblo County "Historic"

At 8:00am Friday morning, the Pueblo County Clerk will begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. Pueblo will be the third county to do so, despite Colorado's gay marriage ban that's still in effect.

The Southern Colorado Equality Alliance said there will be several couples lining up Friday morning to get a marriage license.

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz said, he made the decision to issue the licenses after several other Colorado judges' rulings and a clear trend nationwide where gay marriage bans have been struck down in more than 20 states.

"I think it's great, I think it's good for each person to have their own choice," said James Steele.

On Pueblo's riverwalk Thursday night, there were some in support of gay marriage in Pueblo County, and others against it.

"I think it's breaking down the morals and the values of the traditional values which I believe in," said Debra Wellen.

For Don Penner, the issue can be complicated. His brother is gay.

"I love my brother, I love anybody that is a gay," he said.

But despite that, his beliefs are against gay marriage, and therefore he doesn't support it.

"The Bible says it's a downward spiral of our civilization," he explained.

But for equal rights groups, gay marriage is not about religion.

"This is really about legality and about civil rights for all people," said Daneya Esgar, President of the Southern Colorado Equality Alliance.

She was happy to find out Thursday afternoon, that Pueblo County would start issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

"I was thrilled, I was super excited for the couples that deserve this in our city and in our county," she said.

However, Esgar was not surprised by the announcement. She felt it was coming, after Boulder County and Adams County District judges recently ruled that Colorado's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Clerk Ortiz also refers to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down Utah's ban on gay marriage, because it is unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit includes Colorado.

And while the decision did come with a stay until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on the case, Ortiz and a few other County Clerks say they'll continue to issue the same-sex licenses until they're told to stop.

In a statement, Ortiz said he consulted at length with the Pueblo County Attorney's office and decided that not issuing licenses could also put the county at considerable legal risk for denying constitutional rights.

"No court has upheld the constitutionality of marriage bans for 23 consecutive rulings - at state or federal levels all over the nation - that's significant and can't be ignored. Denying constitutional rights is an untenable position and I have to respect the Constitution, the courts and move forward," said Ortiz in the statement.

The Equality Alliance is applauding the decision, calling it historic for Pueblo County.

"This is absolutely historic," said Esgar. "The fact that we're the third county in the state to say we're going to stand up for these couples and we believe in equality is huge and historic."



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