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LGBTQ advocate dies at 78 –

Clela Rorex became a notable advocate for LGBTQ rights when she issued first same-sex marriage license in the U.S. as a county clerk in 1975.

Making civil rights history

Rorex was elected county clerk of Boulder County, Colorado in 1975. She ran for the office after becoming frustrated with her fellow local Democrats, who said they needed to find a man to run for the office against the female Republican candidate. It was just a few months after Rorex’s win when a gay couple, Dave McCord and Dave Zamora, applied for a marriage license in her office. Rorex looked into the legality of issuing the license and found that there was no law in Colorado specifying that marriage was between a man and a woman. She issued the license to McCord and Zamora, followed by five other marriage licenses for same-sex couples in the months that followed. Rorex was harassed with hate mail, and the Colorado attorney general released an opinion stating that marriage was between a man and a woman, forcing her to stop. However, the six same-sex marriage licenses she issued were never invalidated. Forty years later, same-sex marriage became legal across the U.S. with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Rorex left Colorado two years after her historic work. In later years, she worked for the Native American Rights Fund.

Notable quote

“[T]hank 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.” —from a 2015 interview for NPR

Tributes to Clela Rorex

Full obituary: The New York Times

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