HRC Blog

The First Same-Sex Marriage License in Colorado

by Mike Yost

In what city and what year was the first same-sex marriage license issued in Colorado?

Denver? Nope. Wrong city. Sometime in the 1990's? Wrong again. Off by decades. 

It was issued in Boulder, Colorado in 1975.

Marriage CertificateOn March 26th of that year, a county clerk by the name of Clela Rorex crossed off the words male and female on a marriage certificate and replaced them with the word person.  She did this five more times, issuing certificates to four gay couples and two lesbian couples. 

At the time, the District Attorney’s office stated that there was no law specifically banning same-sex marriage, though Colorado state law didn’t recognize it either.

Her actions stirred up controversy, hate mail, and public condemnations from entire church congregations.  The most dramatic display of disproval was a man who rode into town on a mare named Dolly.  The man declared if two men or two women could marry, then he should be able to marry Dolly.  Clela was quick to reply that because the mare was only eight years old, Dolly was too young for the city to issue a marriage certificate.

The victory was brief.  The Colorado's state attorney soon declared the marriages certificates void, but not before a very important first step was taken in the fight for marriage equality.

In a phone interview with Timothy Lange, writer for The Daily Kos, Clela stated: "My only regret in this is that people with long-term loving relationships still can't get married. I now know several gay and lesbian couples who have been together for years. They reaffirm to me that this is an issue of human rights, civil rights. All the fanatical hatemongering about it is frightening and infuriating."

Thirty-seven years later, the fight for same-sex marriage continues as the new Colorado legislative session begins.  Colorado State Senator Pat Steadman and Colorado State Representative Mark Ferrandino will soon reintroduce the same-sex civil unions bill that died in committee in 2011.  Find out what you can do to help as One Colorado spearheads a new campaign for same-sex civil unions in Colorado: One Colorado.

From Richard Frank Adams and Joseph Howerton, one of the couples who were issued a marriage certificate by Clela Rorex:  “Love is an extraordinarily powerful force. That is why the enemies of Lesbian and Gay Liberation do not want to see our relationships recognized. Once Same-Sex Love is recognized the strength of the opposition will begin to wither away. It is inevitable."

Click here for the full article from The Daily Kos: Clela Rorex: Gay Marriage Pioneer.