A gay couple applied for marriage license 40 years ago

Lata Jain

40 years ago, a gay couple applied for a marriage license. In 1975, Clela Rorex was serving as the Boulder County clerk when two men asked about applying for a marriage license. Rorex was just three months into her term as clerk, but she was about to make a judgment call that would ring throughout history.

She issued the license to a gay couple which made a request for solemnizing their marriage legally. Though the then district attorney strongly objected to the license, and he said the Colorado marriage code did not specify that marriage had to be between a man and a woman.

There was uproar to this decision. Her decision to issue a marriage license to the couple got national attention and was featured in the The New York Times. One line reads, “Miss Rorex, like members of homosexual rights groups, thinks that could be resolved by eliminating the gender words. For same-sex couples, she has crossed off ‘male’ and ‘female’ on the Boulder applications, substituting ‘person.'”Rorex received angry letters, newspapers printed harsh articles about her, and people even harassed, abused her family.

I honestly did not anticipate the degree of hate,” says Rorex. “It was threats, abuse and insult. People needed to kill me for doing this decision and my conscious didn’t see a “wrong doing”. It’s scary — though not entirely surprising — that newspapers seemed content to print things like “the penalty for homosexual acts is death” in its letters to the editor.

Ultimately, and unfortunately, Colorado’s attorney general voided the six same-sex marriages. All the six licenses she issued were cancelled.

Rorex didn’t finish her term as clerk, and the marriages ultimately weren’t valid in the eyes of the law, but generations to come would prove her right.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court made history when it ruled that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry.

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