NEWS
10:27 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Colo. Clerk Recalls Issuing Same-Sex-Marriage Licenses — In 1975

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 11:32 am

For the past month, county clerks in Colorado have been challenging a ban on same-sex marriage by issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The Colorado Supreme Court is expected to rule on their actions any day now.

But few know that this is history repeating itself.

Back in 1975, when Clela Rorex was the newly elected county clerk in Boulder, she began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On a visit to StoryCorps, Rorex tells her friend Sue Larson that two men came to her office and asked for a marriage license. Rorex, now 70, says it was the first time she'd ever met any openly gay people.

"I said, 'I don't know if I can do this.' ... I went to the district attorney, and he said the Colorado marriage code did not specify that marriage had to be between a man and a woman. And therefore I did it," Rorex says.

"I honestly did not anticipate the degree of hate. It was threats — people needed to kill me for doing this, and that kind of stuff. And I had entire church congregations writing me that it would be Sodom and Gomorrah in the area."

Rorex's son, about 8 years old at the time, would sometimes pick up the phone when people called. "If he answered, they'd spiel their hatred to him," Rorex says.

"One day I walked into my office. I was standing and looking out my window, and this horse trailer drives up and some media vans. This cowboy gets out. All of a sudden it just dawned on me: He was gonna ask for a marriage license for his horse," Rorex says. "My deputy and I were flipping through the marriage code like crazy, you know, 'What are we gonna do?' "

"So the cowboy comes in and asked for a marriage license, and I started taking information. I ask him his name and Dolly's name — Dolly was the horse. And I said, 'And how old is Dolly?' He said, 'Eight.' And I put my pen down, calm as could be, and said, 'Well, I'm sorry, but that's too young without parental approval,' " Rorex recalls with a laugh.

Rorex didn't complete her term in office, and she says she wouldn't have been re-elected if she'd tried to run again. But she doesn't regret her choice.

"I just was this young woman in this place at this point in time," she tells Larson. "And thank goodness I made that decision, because it would be so hard for me to look myself in the mirror today if I had not made the decision then."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Friday means time for Story Corps. Recently county clerks in Colorado have been challenging a ban on same-sex marriage by issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The state's Supreme Court is expected to rule on their actions any day now. But this is actually a bit of history repeating itself. In 1975, Clela Rorex, was the new county clerk in Boulder when she began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She told her friend Sue Larson about how two men came to her office door.

CLELA ROREX: The couple came in, they asked for marriage license and it's the first time I met openly gay people. I said, I don't know if I can do this and at that point I went to the district attorney and he said that Colorado marriage code did not specify that marriage had to be between a man and a woman. And therefore I did it. I honestly did not anticipate the degree of hate. It was threats, people needed to kill me for doing this and that kind of stuff. And I had entire church congregations writing me that it would be Sodom and Gomorrah in the area. I had a small son, he was about eight and people would call on the phone and if he answered, they'd spiel their hatred to him. And one day I walked into my office, I was standing and looking out my window and this horse trailer drives up and some media vans. This cowboy gets out, all of the sudden it gets dawned on me, he was going to ask for marriage license for his horse. My deputy and I were flipping through the marriage code like crazy, you know, what are we going to do? So, the cowboy comes in and asks for a marriage license and I started taking information. I ask him his name and Dolly's, Dolly was the horse. And I said how old is Dolly? He said eight. And I put my pen down, calm as can be and said, well I'm sorry but that's too young without parental approval. (Laughing) But what didn't feel good was my actions made me kind of a laughingstock. And, you know, I didn't see through my term in office, I would not have gotten re-elected anyway.

SUE LARSON: Well, there are some people out here, who know what a big deal that was and what a stand you took.

ROREX: Thanks Sue, but I was just this young woman in this place, at this point in time and thank goodness I made that decision because it would be so hard for me to look myself in the mirror today if, I had not made the decision.

GREENE: Clela Rorex, former clerk of Boulder County Colorado, speaking with her friend Sue Larson about issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in 1975. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. Story Corps. podcast are at iTunes and also at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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