Colorado judge finds gay marriage ban unconstitutional

A Judge in Colorado struck down the state's gay marriage ban Wednesday but put the ruling on hold pending appeal. 

State District Judge Scott Crabtree on Wednesday issued a ruling similar to others around the nation, finding that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. 

The judge also found that a state law approved in 2013 that allows gay couples to obtain civil unions highlights the state's creation of two classes of people. 

"If civil unions were truly the same as marriages, they would be called marriages and not civil unions," the judge wrote in his opinion. "If they were the same, there would be no need for both of them."

The ruling invalidates a 2006 law approved by the public that only allows for the validity of marriage that is between one man and one woman. 

However, the state legislature in 2013 approved a bill to allow gay couples to obtain civil unions with the same benefits and protections as married couples. 

The decision Wednesday is separate from a case in which a county clerk is being sued by the state attorney general for handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couple. 

The clerk began issuing the licenses last month after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — which has jurisdiction over Colorado — struck down a gay marriage ban in Utah, also pending appeal. 

That appeals court was the first to rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court last year struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same sex couples. 

That Utah case is being appealed to the Supreme Court.  

In all, 19 states and the District of Columbia currently allow gay marriage. Since last year, 16 courts have struck down state marriage bans, but many have been stayed pending appeal.