The Fight Over Same-Sex Marriage Made This a Long, Hot Summer for Colorado AG John Suthers

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In both Utah and Virginia, the plaintiffs and the defendants in those same-sex-marriage cases are asking for the United States Supreme Court to rule now.

In the vast majority of states, there's been this kind of uniformity of opinion: "Let's get this to the Supreme Court. Let's get this decided as soon as possible." I was a little surprised. I mean, do they really want me to not appeal an Adams County decision and say that should control the state of Colorado? I would think they want the imprimatur of the highest court saying this is the law going forward. But we'll see what happens, and I'm hoping that this time next year, we'll have a definitive answer to the issue. And I do want to remind everybody, that, right from the get-go, had attorney generals done what they were supposed to do under state law, this whole issue would have been decided two years ago.

Some say your political aspirations might be impacting your defense of the same-sex-marriage ban. Are you running for office in Colorado Springs? What's going on with that?

I haven't decided yet. I may. But anybody who says that I would take a legal position because I want to run in Colorado Springs or any place else simply doesn't know me. I have taken unpopular legal positions. What do you think is the most popular position to take in Colorado Springs on the gun laws? Trust me, they care a lot more about guns down there than they do about same-sex marriage. In fact, I'm not even sure what the politics of same-sex marriage are there.There are a lot of very conservative folks who lean toward libertarian who have no problem with same-sex marriage. The only folks who have problems with same-sex marriage are your social conservatives. And there are a lot of hard-core libertarians who think, clearly, it's the way we've got to go.

Trust me, if I was trying to politically ingratiate myself, defending the gun laws would not be the way to do it. Prosecuting this baker — I have gotten more e-mails and hate mail about that, and a lot more of them from El Paso County than anywhere else. If this were a politically motivated thing, I haven't handled it very well.

What's your own stance on same-sex marriage?

Okay. I'm going to say the same thing to you that I've said to every reporter who asks me that question. My position is irrelevant, as is my position on guns, as is my position on the public-accommodations law. Having said that, I have consistently said I think that same-sex marriage is inevitable in Colorado. I think that the majority of people in Colorado want same-sex marriage and that it's going to become the law, either judicially or politically. I've also stated that my preference for the society, going forward, is that it would be politically sanctioned as opposed to judicially sanctioned, because I think it would have better buy-in. But if it's judicially imposed, that's the law, and we'll move forward.

What are your thoughts on tensions in the Republican Party between social conservatives and libertarians, and how do you navigate that yourself?

I don't navigate that myself. I just be a lawyer. A wise lawyer told me early on, when you're holding a public job, sometimes elected and sometimes appointed, as a lawyer, in a political milieu, that being the best lawyer you can be is ultimately the best politics. I think that's proved pretty true for me.

I remember, as a district attorney, I shut down a Christian boys' ranch in El Paso County that was run by Ted Haggard. He had put this thing together. This was long before Ted's problems. We'd gotten some reports of abuse. So we went out and arrested some people and shut down this thing. By God, I was crucified — absolutely crucified! They ran an editorial in the Gazette and all that stuff. The case works its way through the courts. People were convicted for abuse. It's a bad scene, and everybody shuts up. No apologies from the newspaper or anything like that — that's not the nature of the game. But over time, people came to the conclusion: Hey, this guy's looking at the law and the evidence and trying to do what his role is in the system. I've been elected pretty overwhelmingly twice, and I think part of my appeal to unaffiliated voters has been that I am first and foremost a lawyer.

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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris

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