Gutterman Griffiths’ Ann Gushurst, along with co-counsel John McHugh at Reilly Pozner and Marcus Lock from Law of the Rockies, successfully secured a Colorado District Court decision overturning Colorado’s ban on gay marriage that is so historic, it trumped President Obama’s visit to the region in on the front page of The Denver Post the next morning.
On July 9, 2014, Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree struck down Colorado’s gay marriage ban in a consolidated multidistrict case involving nine couples from Denver and Adams counties. Judge Crabtree’s eloquent and lengthy decision clearly proclaims that the marriage bans in Colorado violate the couples’ Constitutional rights, specifically their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Ms. Gushurst was elated by the Court’s decision, having been a longtime activist fighting for marriage equality and to end discrimination against gay couples. Ms. Gushurst was recently quoted by The Denver Post in response to the landmark Tenth Circuit decision of Kitchen v. Herbert overturning a similar Utah statute, stating: “[i]t is inevitable that marriage bans everywhere will fail.” The Colorado District Court decision, now issued in the case Ms. Gushurst has been fighting alongside legal giants in the field of Constitutional law, is simply further support for her ethical conclusion. The decision itself echoes Ms. Gushurst’s sentiments, acknowledging that “[s]ince Windsor, every single court to evaluate same-sex marriage bans has found them unconstitutional, either under the federal or relevant state constitutions.”
The decision is extraordinarily solid, systematically refuting each and every argument offered by Colorado’s Attorney General against marriage equality, holding that the ban “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.” The decision clearly comes down on the side of Constitutional rights against irrational state interference.
While Ms. Gushurst recognizes the academic implications of such Constitutional issues, and has a great passion for the intricate legal arguments underlying the fight for civil rights equality, more than most she recognizes the practical—and often devastating—impact such bans have had on families; the life experience of the fathers, mothers, and especially children living under such antiquated bans. Ms. Gushurst’s primary hope is that this decision is only the first step on the battleground of expanding children’s rights, as they tend to suffer as the victims of society’s legal stumbling. In the end, the fight for equality in this context is a fight for families.
Ms. Gushurst counts among her achievements the recent establishment of the concept that legal parent status may be conferred to unmarried gay parents under Title 19 under Colorado law. She has also educated her colleagues for years on these issues, co-presenting at a one-day International CLE program, “Civil Unions: Family Law and Estate Issues in a Time of Rapid Change” in 2014, presenting on Legal Issues Surrounding Non-Traditional Families at the Metropolitan Denver Interdisciplinary Committee in 2013, and teaching a course on Gay Family Law Issues at the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association in 2012. Her article, “Supreme Court Ruling on DOMA Raises More Questions Than it Answers for Colorado Families,” which appeared in Law Week Colorado on July 8, 2013, triggered a state-wide debate about the impact of that federal ruling on states, such as Colorado, that continue to reject gay marriage. And Ms. Gushurst does not leave her input at the conceptual level; she has represented many families where parent’s rights were initially ignored as a direct result of the State of Colorado’s failure to recognize gay marriage.
Although many believe that the Constitutional debate over marriage equality is abstract, requiring in depth discussion of the distinction between the right to marry, the right to procreate, and the right to parent, Ms. Gushurst never forgets that this debate has serious practical implications for families and, most heartbreakingly, for the children of families that are still struggling to be granted the legal protections they are denied simply on the basis of the gender of the parents.