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

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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.

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