DENVER — A lesbian couple from nearby Englewood are seeking to overturn Colorado’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, in what is thought to be the first challenge to the 2006 ballot initiative that established it.
The couple, Kate Burns and Sheila Schroeder, appeared Wednesday before Judge James B. Breese of Denver County Court to face a trespassing charge stemming from a brief sit-in they staged on Sept. 24, when, accompanied by their minister, they were refused a marriage license from the Denver Clerk and Recorder Office. Judge Breese set a trial date of April 14.
Earlier this week, Ms. Burns and Ms. Schroeder filed a motion with the court claiming that Amendment 43, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, violated their constitutional right to equal protection. The measure was approved by 55 percent of Colorado voters 15 months ago.
“The American system does not allow for the tyranny of the majority,” said the couple’s lawyer, Mari Newman. “Marriage is a fundamental right, which should be for all Coloradans, not just some Coloradans.” Nine states and the District of Columbia afford a variety of benefits to gay and lesbian couples, but only Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage. Twenty-six states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, whose legality is also being weighed by the highest courts of Connecticut, California and Iowa.
Ms. Burns, 44, who works for the University of Denver’s digital media studies program, and Ms. Schroeder, 43, an assistant professor of mass communications and journalism studies at the university, have been together five years. A hearing on their motion to overturn Colorado’s ban is scheduled for Feb. 28.
The couple say their case is emblematic of discrimination faced by gay and lesbian couples throughout the country. “We are planning on sticking with this until the law has changed,” Ms. Burns said. “When you see something unjust, you want to change it.”