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HomeLocal NewsColoradoColorado's constitution bans same-sex marriage. But voters may soon change that.

Colorado’s constitution bans same-sex marriage. But voters may soon change that.


DENVER — Colorado voters will soon decide whether to protect same-sex marriage rights, in a move some say would reestablish the state’s long history of supporting gay couples.

On the ballot next November, voters will see a yes or no question: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution removing the ban on same-sex marriage?”

Colorado is one of 30 states that still has a statewide ban on same-sex marriage in its constitution. In 2006, Colorado voters narrowly passed Amendment 43, which added the restriction that “only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

Colorado Constitution marriage ban

Colorado Secretary of State

Colorado’s Constitution currently bans same-sex marriages.

For almost a decade, that hasn’t mattered. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015, in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, that all states must grant same-sex marriages and recognize marriages granted in other states.

However, if the Supreme Court were to overturn that decision, Colorado’s restrictive constitution would apply to future marriages.

That’s left Coloradans who are supportive of marriage equality worried. In recent years, conservative Supreme Court Justices like Clarence Thomas have indicated the court may soon revisit and revoke same-sex marriage rights.

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To head off that chance, Colorado lawmakers, urged by a coalition of groups known as Freedom to Marry Colorado, passed a measure this year to put the question to voters. The bill was sponsored by Senator Joann Ginal and Representatives Brianna Titone and Alex Valdez. In November, voters in California and Hawaii will also consider removing similar constitutional bans.

Alex Limas and Josh Gonda

Cameron Duckworth, Denver7

Alex Limas and Josh Gonda have been together for seven years, five of those years as a married couple. They hope a ballot initiative in November will protect same-sex marriage rights into the future.

Alex Limas and Josh Gonda, who are celebrating five years of marriage this month, told Denver7 they are supporting the ballot initiative. They see it as a chance for Colorado’s laws to ensure all married couples have the same rights.

“With marriage, there comes a sense of security,” Gonda said. “Knowing that at the end of the day, I always have Alex.”

Limas said that marriage also affords them rights like hospital visitation, social security, and health care benefits.

Alex Limas and Josh Gonda

Courtesy of Alex Limas and Josh Gonda

Josh Gonda says when he and Alex Limas got married, their families melded and gave them the security of knowing they would always be there for each other.

“Married couples or couples wanting to get married really just want to know that if something were to ever happen… they’re seen as equals to other married couples,” Limas said.

That’s why Gonda said it’s scary to think that discriminatory language in Colorado’s constitution could undo the legality of marriages like theirs.

“This is happening in a state where, as a native, I feel so loved here,” Gonda said. The current language in the constitution “doesn’t align with what I think a lot of Coloradans truly believe at heart,” he said.

nadine bridges and wife

Denver7

Nadine Bridges married her wife three times because of the unstable legal landscape for same-sex couples before the Supreme Court ruling in 2015.

Nadine Bridges, who directs the state’s leading LGBTQ+ advocacy group One Colorado, knows what it’s like for marriage rights to be in question.

Bridges and her wife first entered a civil union in 2013. She said Boulder County allowed them to obtain a marriage certificate almost a year later.

“Then we found out from the Attorney General that we weren’t married. That it wasn’t valid,” she said.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Obergefell case, “we got married again,” she said.

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“My wife married me three times,” Bridges said. “No one should have to go through that.”

If the November ballot initiative succeeds, it could prevent Coloradan couples from going through experiences like this in the future.

And Limas said, “Making this change today really says a lot and goes back to decades ago.”

Nearly 50 years ago, Colorado became one of the first states in the country to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Clela Rorex Marriage License

Courtesy of History Colorado and Out Boulder County

Boulder City Clerk Clela Rorex issued Colorado’s first same-sex marriage license to David McCord and David Zamora on March 26, 1975.

Boulder County’s first female city clerk and recorder, Clela Rorex, was approached in 1975 by two men, both named Dave. David McCord and David Zamora had been denied a marriage license in Colorado Springs but hoped Boulder would consider granting them the license.

Rorex retold her experience to the Boulder Public Library in a 2015 interview.

Watch Clela Rorex share more of her story:

Clela Rorex shares more of her story

“I looked at the marriage code, it didn’t specifically say that marriage had to be between a man and woman,” Rorex said. She also asked the district attorney for his legal opinion. They decided no restriction existed in Colorado or federal law.

“I issued that license based really on one premise – other than, of course, the fact that it was not illegal. I was a feminist asking for equal rights, and I felt very deeply, who was I to deny equal rights to someone else,” Rorex said.

She issued six same-sex marriage licenses between March and April of 1975.

These are Colorado’s first same-sex marriage licenses, preserved by History Colorado:

“I knew that there would be an uproar about it, but I really was unprepared for the degree of the uproar about it. I was very unprepared,” she said.

Rorex recounted to Denver7 in 2015 how she was viciously harassed and dragged into a media frenzy that thrust Boulder into the national spotlight.

Colorado’s Attorney General then stopped Rorex from issuing more same-sex marriage licenses.

But she stood by her decision up until her death in 2022.

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After Rorex stopped issuing the licenses, decades passed without same-sex marriage rights in Colorado. In the early 1990s, Colorado became known as the “Hate State,” after voters amended the constitution to prohibit any anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Coloradans. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that law unconstitutional. But it took several more decades for same-sex couples to start gaining support again. In 2009, the state provided limited recognition of same-sex unions through designated beneficiary agreements. Then in 2013, Colorado allowed same-sex civil unions. But because of the constitutional ban against same-sex marriage passed in 2006, it took the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 to afford marriage rights again.

Given this history, LGBTQ+ advocates hope the vote next November will reaffirm the state’s stance on supporting same-sex marriage.

“We just want to live our lives,” said Bridges. “Everybody should have the opportunity to live their lives and thrive, and Colorado is leading the way in how we can do that.”

Special thanks to the Boulder Public Library Carnegie Library for Local History for providing the Oral History Interview with Clela Rorex, call number OH2028.


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