How many of us have heard the story of the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Clela Rorex and what she did in 1975 by issuing wedding licenses for two men to get married? I suspect not many of us. I know I hadn’t until I was pointed in its direction last night but it is a quite wonderful story and I’ll allow Clela to recount it in her own words via NPR:
The couple came in. They asked for a marriage license. And it’s the first time I met openly gay people. I said, I don’t know if I can do this. And at that point, 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. 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. I had a small son, he was about 8, and people would call on the phone and if he answered, they’d spiel their hatred to him. And 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 going to ask for a marriage license for his horse. My deputy and I were flipping through the marriage code like crazy, you know, what are we going to 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, 8. And I put my pen down, calm as could be, and said, well, I’m sorry, but that’s too young without parental approval.
This woman to be frank is an unsung hero. She just looked at people and looked at the law and saw nothing on the statute that prohibited a wedding between two people of the same gender. She wasn’t afraid of the unknown, she issued the wedding license and got on with things. She would issue five more before the lawyers and the Colorado Attorney General made her stop. Sadly for her she had to leave office before her term was up and she knew she would never have won re-election.
The whole question of whether the government should ever have been (or indeed still should be) involved in weddings is a legitimate one to raise. I think it is clear that as a society we are evolving at a rapid rate and the speed that gay marriage has been accepted throughout the western world shows that public perception is changing on homosexuality. Love is love is one of my favourite sayings. Whether it is love between people of the same gender, people of wildly different ages, who cares? Life is so short and in large parts miserable, I never understood why some people thought that if others didn’t follow life via the convention that they believed was right, that they were wrong.
The friend who pointed me to the story did so following telling me about a gay proposal at a Houston Astros game he was at that came up on the big screen. Texas is about as red as red can get (bar Austin) and the crowd went wild and cheered as the embarrassed person being asked said yes. If the vast majority of a baseball crowd in redder than red Texas is cheering for a wedding proposal between two men then progress is more than considerable on this front.
40 years ago Clela Rorex saw two men wanting to get married, she didn’t see anything in the law that said they couldn’t so issued the marriage license. Considering Kim Davis is still sitting in jail having been found guilty of contempt of court in Kentucky for failing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, we aren’t at the finishing line yet where it just isn’t an issue full stop. Still progress is clear and people like Clela Rorex show us that even the best part of half a century ago, some people didn’t just see gender, they saw love and as we move forward I think more and more people are not looking at partners and seeing gender first and foremost but seeing love and happiness ans isn’t that in the end what it is all about?
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