A headshot of Clela Rorex from the 1970s. (Courtesy of Out Boulder County)
In the spring of 1975, 40 years before Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, a strong LGBTQ ally in Boulder County made history. Clela Rorex, then the Boulder County clerk, knowingly issued to two men the first same-sex marriage license in the country.
Rorex died June 19, 2022, after making a lasting impact in Boulder County, the LGBTQ community and, as some LGBTQ advocates argue, the world.
In honor of Rorex, Boulder County commissioners are marking what would have been her 79th birthday — July 23 — as Clela Rorex Day. The countywide holiday aims to celebrate and honor Rorex’s allyship and pioneering of LGBTQ rights.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
After issuing the first same-sex marriage license, Rorex proceeded to supply five more. In April 1975, Colorado Attorney General John Dee MacFarlane requested Rorex to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses. She complied with MacFarlane’s order, only to resign from her position as Boulder County clerk in 1977.
“She did the right thing before most people even understood it as a possibility,” said Bruce Parker, deputy director for Out Boulder County.
Though Rorex never held elective office again, she continued to advocate for the LGBTQ community throughout her life. She volunteered with Out Boulder County and stood as a witness to many same-sex marriages.
“By following her conscience in 1975 and issuing the first marriage license to a same-sex couple in the United States, Clela left her mark on history with her bravery and stood up for what she believed in. To the very end, she was an icon of strength,” Claire Levy, vice chair for the board of Boulder County commissioners, said in a statement.
Levy will read the proclamation drafted by Out Boulder County and the Boulder County commissioners’ office at Rorex’s memorial service Saturday. Parker said such proclamations show where government officials’ priorities lie. Parker is uncertain if Clela Rorex Day will be made into a statewide holiday in the future but would like to see its fruition.
Rorex faced a great deal of hate for issuing marriage licenses. But the county clerk also received many letters from LGBTQ people around the world, proclaiming gratitude for her choices, according to Mardi Moore, executive director for Out Boulder County
In an Out Boulder County blog post, Moore asks Boulder County residents to observe the holiday by being “as strong as Clela Rorex in the fight we have ahead of us. To be as willing to risk it all — a paycheck, a reputation, family and friends — in the fight for equality.”
Parker added that residents should display pride flags until the celebration of Rorex’s life comes to an end on Saturday.
“I think we should try to be who Clela was in terms of doing the right thing,” Parker said. “We also should try to be who Clela was in terms of loving our neighbors and in terms of lifting up the community and making space for everybody.”
Rorex’s celebration of life will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Boulder Jewish Community Center.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.