Editor's note: This article has been changed to correct the name of the founder of Freedom to Marry.
Advocates for marriage equality and attorneys familiar with the case welcomed Thursday's ruling from Boulder District Court Judge Andrew Hartman that allows Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall to continue to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But it's a relatively small piece of the overall struggle for marriage equality, they said.
University of Colorado law professor Jennifer Hendricks said that if Attorney General John Suthers seeks to stop other clerks in other counties, such as Denver, from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, the Boulder ruling would be part of that judge's consideration but would not be binding.
Tom Russell, a professor at the University of Denver, who is representing a couple in the Adams County gay marriage case that was also married by Hall, said Hartman's ruling that Suthers had failed to show any real harm to the state from licenses being issued is correct. That will continue to be an issue in any jurisdiction where Suthers seeks an injunction, he said.
But the basic constitutional issue doesn't change whether Colorado has a handful of legally married gay couples or hundreds, Hendricks said.
Thursday's ruling and the subsequent decision of Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson to follow Boulder's lead is most interesting from a political and a personal angle, Hendricks said.
"For those following all the ins and outs, it's a good civics lesson," she said. "And it's very significant for the people who want to be married."
Boulder County Deputy Attorney David Hughes said he did not think Hall's case would ultimately be what leads to a final ruling on the state's ban.
"There are other cases ahead of us in line," Hughes said.
Hall said when the decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Kitchen v. Herbert case in Utah first came down, she consulted with Hughes about how it changed what her office was required to do and felt issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was the right thing to do.
"We weighed the pros and cons and we went forward with it," Hall said.
Hall said she was happy the injunction was denied, but said she was "pacing herself," when it came to celebrating.
"We still have a long way to go," Hall said.
But Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, said every county and every state that moves forward with same-sex marriage shows "the next level decision makers" — including the Supreme Court — that the country is ready and supportive of this step.
"It makes a real difference in the lives of real families that are now being treated with the dignity they deserve," he said. "It gives more Americans the opportunity to see families helped and no one hurt. It helps the next level of decision makers see that the country is ready."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or email@example.com