The U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage ensures that hundreds of gay and lesbian betrothals in Colorado since the state's ban ended last year will be recognized in all 50 states — and prompted celebration among supporters across the state.
Longtime gay-rights advocates such as political strategist Ted Trimpa contrasted Friday's announcement with the memory of disappointment in 1992 when the state's voters approved the anti-gay Amendment 2.
"Take that feeling and pair it with the joy of seeing the decision this morning," said Trimpa. "It's quite a journey."
But he joined many others in cautioning that even in the wake of this legal victory, that journey still has miles to go.
"Over half the states in this country still allow a person to be fired, denied housing or denied services at a business, just because they're gay," Trimpa said. "So we're all going to wake up and it's like Alabama: Somebody could get married, take a marriage picture and put it on their desk — and get fired."
The high court's 5-4 ruling came in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case out of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In October, Colorado set aside its ban on gay marriage that voters had approved in 2006.
Denver clerk and recorder Debra Johnson, who was one of the earliest clerks in the state to grant marriage licenses before the legal issue was settled, heard the news on the radio Friday morning as she drove to work.
"My phone has been blowing up since then," she said. "I'm still in shock, trying to take it all in. I'm totally excited. Fridays are usually busy, but it's going to be crazy, I think."
Johnson said she'd been anticipating the decision all week.
"It was close, it wasn't a unanimous vote," she said. "But it doesn't matter. They made a ruling. I think love prevails, that's the key."
Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states — including Colorado — and the District of Columbia. The court's ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
Tim Gill, the Colorado entrepreneur whose gay-advocacy group has been instrumental in the battle for marriage equality, said that supporters should pause for celebration — and then get back to work.
"This victory was won because couples shared their stories of love and commitment, advocates battled tirelessly state by state, and donors generously funded a well-conceived plan," Gill said in a prepared statement. "Together, we achieved one of the most dramatic shifts in public opinion in our lifetimes."
Mari Newman, whose law firm represented six gay couples in a federal lawsuit challenging Colorado's previous ban, said the Supreme Court's decision ensures that when Coloradans move anywhere in the country, their marriages will be recognized.
"My clients are absolutely thrilled," Newman said. "I think the decision shows that the sky does not fall when lesbians and gays receive the same rights as everyone else."
The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.
The leader of Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based Christian organization that has actively opposed same-sex marriage, said that the court decision doesn't necessarily settle the issue, which he sees spilling into questions of religious liberty.
"Like abortion, I don't think these deeply moral issues just go away because five judges said we've decided what truth is and what reality is," said president Jim Daly. "Far from it. I think they have uncorked a whirlwind."
Earnie Matheson, left, and Tony Chiaro, right, were issued the first same sex marriage license at the Pulaski County court house on Friday, June 26, 2015 in Little Rock, Ark. following a ruling by the US Supreme Court that struck down bans on same sex marriage nation wide.
Colorado began issuing marriage licenses legally to same-sex couples after then-Attorney General John Suthers on Oct. 7 gave clearance to all 64 county clerks.
As they did in the fall, state and national legislators from Colorado heralded the latest decision.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is the first openly gay person in Colorado to successfully run for Congress, called Friday a historic day.
Polis was outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., when runners emerged with the decision that made him a witness to history.
"Word spread rapidly as soon as the runners came out of the court chamber," he said. "We saw the smiles on their faces, and a wave of enthusiasm swept through the crowd."
In a prepared statement, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., said the court's ruling meant that it was time to move forward.
"The world is changing, and while I've supported traditional marriage, the court has ruled a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional," Coffman said. "It is time we move forward and focus on the big debates of our day — how to keep our country safe and get Americans back to work."
State Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, was on a golf course Friday morning when she heard about the ruling. Guzman, a lesbian, has sponsored civil union bills and other state legislation on LGBT issues.
"It's a very proud moment, personally," Guzman said. "This is not only good for a particular group of people, it is good for all people. All sorts of people have been playing a role in bringing this type of decision to the forefront."
But opponents voiced concern about future repercussions to citizens whose religious views put them at odds with the concept of gay marriage.
Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, said the decision creates more questions than answers.
"We are concerned that hateful rhetoric and discrimination against those whose religious and moral beliefs support the true definition of marriage that has existed for millennia will intensify," Kraska said.