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HomeWorldClela Rorex, Clerk Who Broke a Gay-Marriage Barrier, Dies at 78

Clela Rorex, Clerk Who Broke a Gay-Marriage Barrier, Dies at 78


Clela Ann Rorex was born on July 23, 1943, in Denver and grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colo. She was adopted at a young age by Ruby Rorex, a teacher and dance instructor, and Cecil Rorex, who after working in the mining industry became clerk of Routt County, Colo., Mr. Poston said. Cecil Rorex, he said, had lost a leg, which Mr. Poston thought made his mother particularly sympathetic to those who have to overcome barriers in life, whether physical or institutional.

Ms. Rorex earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Colorado and later, in the 1980s, a second degree, in legal administration, at the University of Denver. Her decision to run for county clerk was born out of anger, she said. She had attended a Democratic Party meeting where the discussion turned to finding a candidate to run against the woman being fielded by the Republicans. Everyone — except Ms. Rorex — thought the Democratic candidate needed to be a man. She complained about such sexism to friends, who told her that she should run herself.

She did, and won. And “the two Daves,” as she called the first gay couple to come to her for a license, turned up a few months after she took office. They had tried to get a license in Colorado Springs, but, Ms. Rorex told the news site Westword in 2014, the clerk there told them: “I don’t do that here. Go to Boulder. They do that type of thing there” — something the Colorado Springs clerk apparently thought because Boulder had recently been embroiled in a debate over housing discrimination against gay people.

Issuing the licenses not only brought Ms. Rorex hateful mail and phone calls, she said, but also criticism from some Democratic state legislators. “They did not want to have to address the issue,” she said, “so they were trying like crazy to avoid it.”

Though she stopped issuing licenses after the state attorney general’s opinion, “the six licenses she issued were never invalidated,” a historical plaque installed at the Boulder courthouse in 2018 says.

Ms. Rorex, who lived in Longmont, was married and divorced three times. In addition to her son Scott, she is survived by another son, Aron Rorex, and a daughter, Linda Vat.



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