Breaking News
More () »

Clela Rorex, who issued nation's first same-sex marriage license, dies at 78

Rorex issued marriage licenses to six same-sex couples in Boulder County in 1975, 40 years before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide.

BOULDER, Colo. — Clela Rorex, a pioneering LGBTQ ally and the first person to knowingly issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple in the United States, has died at age 78. 

Rorex died Sunday in Longmont, her family and the nonprofit Out Boulder County said:

"There's a big hole with the loss of Clela Rorex," Mardi Moore, the executive director of Out Boulder County and a close friend to Rorex, said. "But she's given us the guidepost of how to do the work, what it means to be brave and what it means to be an ally."

Rorex made history shortly after she took office as Boulder County Clerk and Recorder in January 1975. When two men from Colorado Springs entered her office three months later, requesting a marriage license, she asked the district attorney's office if there were any Colorado state laws prohibiting her from issuing a license to two people of the same sex. The office said there was not, and Rorex issued the license to the couple the next day.

"Colorado law, at that time, did not specify that marriage had to be between only a man and a woman," Rorex said in 2013. "The DA said 'You can do it if you want, or you can say no.'"

Over the next month, Clela issued five more licenses to same-sex couples. When Colorado's attorney general directed her to stop, she complied.

"That one brave act changed the course of history for so many of us, and then it took 40-plus years for the Supreme Court to catch up with this accidental ally," Moore said. 

A series of court rulings cleared the way for same-sex marriages in Colorado in 2014

In 2015, 40 years after Rorex issued the first licenses, a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Rorex dedicated the last years of her life to LGBTQ allyship and advocacy, including volunteering with Out Boulder County.

The organization said a celebration of her life will be held on July 23, which would have been her 79th birthday.

RELATED: Erie group to host town's first Pride celebration

RELATED: Only 17.7 percent of the biographical pages on Wikipedia are women. This group wants to change that.


Before You Leave, Check This Out