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Colorado sues Boulder County to stop same-sex marriage licenses

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - The Colorado attorney general filed a lawsuit in district court on Thursday to stop the Boulder County clerk from issuing same-sex marriage licenses after a regional appeals court ruling backed gay nuptials in neighboring Utah.

Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall has given out more than 100 marriage licenses since the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that Utah could not stop gay couples from getting married, but stayed its ruling until the Supreme Court ultimately decides.

She rejected requests from Attorney General John Suthers to halt the practice pending the outcome of appeals.

Since the 10th Circuit covers Colorado as well as five neighboring states, Suthers said the state's ban on gay marriage remained in force. He had threatened Hall with legal action if she did not stop voluntarily.

The state of Colorado permits same-sex civil unions.

"While we would prefer not to sue a government official, Ms. Hall's actions are creating a legal limbo for both the state and the couples whose relationships she wants to champion," Suthers said in a statement.

"That limbo could have tangible and unintended consequences."

Hall responded that Suthers was trying to force her to violate the fundamental rights of same-sex couples.

She said she believed it was a waste of resources for him to keep denying people their constitutional right, but that it was his prerogative until the Supreme Court addressed the issue.

"The question now is what public officials like me should do in the meantime," Hall said in a statement.

"I think the least harmful and most sensible solution is to issue marriage licenses and avoid the potential of more civil rights violations while this plays out in court."

Suthers' lawsuit came a day after his office filed a motion in a federal court in Denver seeking that all same-sex marriage litigation be suspended until the issue is resolved by higher courts.

Six couples filed federal lawsuits this week in Denver challenging a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Suthers has said his office will file the same motion in state courts where similar cases are pending.

In Thursday's motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Hall, Suthers asked a state judge to rule on whether a county clerk has the authority to issue licenses if the practice deviates from current law.

In a companion complaint, Suthers asked a judge to rule the licenses issued by Hall are invalid, that she stop issuing them, and that the appellate court's stay be binding in Colorado.

A hearing on the case is set for July 9 in Boulder County District Court.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jan Paschal)

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