In re Marriage of LaFleur and Pyfer (Colorado 2021)
The recognition of the right for same-sex couples to marry in Colorado didn’t preclude couples from entering into common law marriages prior to that date. In 2003, Pyfer and LaFleur, a same-sex couple, exchanged rings and held a ceremony acknowledging their commitment. In 2018, Pyfer filed for dissolution of marriage. LaFleur argued they were not married as same-sex marriage wasn’t recognized in Colorado until 2014. Evidence showed that Pyfer had proposed to LaFleur and the men held a ceremony. Pyfer held himself out as married and listed LaFleur as his spouse on legal documents. Based on this evidence, the district court found the parties entered into a common law marriage and divided their assets accordingly. Pyfer appealed the property division, and LaFleur appealed the determination of a valid marriage. The Supreme Court accepted review of this case and affirmed the decision that the parties entered into a common law marriage. In 2014, the United States Supreme Court recognized same-sex couples fundamental right to marry. This made any state law restrictions on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Once a state law is declared unconstitutional, it is treated as if it never existed, and with that, state law was no longer a barrier to recognizing a same-sex marriage. The evidence supported the parties’ intent to enter into a marriage and the fact that it before Colorado recognized the right to marry didn’t matter.