In re Marriage of LaFleur & PyferAnnotate this Case
In 2018, Respondent Timothy Pyfer filed a dissolution of marriage petition, alleging that he had entered into a common law marriage with his same-sex partner, Petitioner Dean LaFleur, when they held a ceremony before family and friends in 2003, and exchanged vows and rings. LaFleur countered that Pyfer’s claim was legally impossible because at the time of the 2003 ceremony, Colorado did not recognize same-sex marriages. In the interim, however, the U.S. Supreme Court held that same-sex couples could exercise the fundamental right to marry and struck down state laws that excluded same-sex couples from civil marriage as unconstitutional. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari review to address whether, in light of Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015), a same-sex couple could prove a common law marriage entered in Colorado before the state recognized same-sex couples’ fundamental right to marry. The Court indeed held a court could recognize a common law same-sex marriage entered in Colorado before the state recognized same-sex couples’ fundamental right to marry, "state law restrictions held unconstitutional in Obergefell cannot serve as an impediment to the recognition of a same-sex marriage predating that decision." The Colorado Court held that to the extent Obergefell did not merely recognize an existing fundamental right to marry but announced a new rule of federal law, that decision applied retroactively to marriages (including common law marriages) predating that decision.