Boulder County Clerk isn't horsing around with same-sex license deadline

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Update below: Since the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its ruling on June 25 invalidating Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples -- seventy at last count. But Colorado Attorney General John Suthers questions whether the clerk has the legal authority to issue the licenses and had given that office a noon deadline today to stop or face further legal action.

This is not the first time that the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder has issued same-sex licenses.

When Clela Rorex was Boulder's clerk and recorder in the mid-'70s, she issued marriage licenses to a handful of same-sex couples -- and was the first official in the country to do so. Homosexuality was big news in Boulder back in 1975, and then-mayor Penfield Tate had warned Rorex, who was just sworn in that January, about the issue of same-sex marriage coming up. Two months later it did, when two men were directed to her office by a conservative clerk in Colorado Springs. "They do that kind of thing in Boulder," the clerk told them.

"It felt like it was the right thing to do, but I couldn't have articulated why in 1975," Rorex told me in 2006. "Over all of these years, I've watched this issue because of the place I was at that time -- the accidental moment of history I was involved in -- and I've grown to become a real staunch crusader for same-sex marriages. I'm continually surprised that it has taken so long for people to give equal rights to same-sex partnerships."

But not surprised by the level of crackpots this issue brings out. On April 15, 1975, the late Rosell Howard, a notorious media hound, showed up in front of the Boulder clerk's office with both a horse trailer and the media in tow, and posed this question for the cameras: "If a boy can marry a boy and a girl can marry a girl, why can't a lonesome old cowboy get hitched to his favorite saddle mare?"

The moment Rorex spotted Howard, she knew what he was up to. So when he walked in and told Rorex that he'd like to marry Dolly, his horse, she went over the marriage-license application line by line. And when she got to the line about age, and Howard said that his intended was just eight, Rorex had to break the news that the horse was too young to marry without written parental consent.

Will the current standoff end as neatly? This morning (update), Suthers's office responded to the Boulder Clerk and Recorder's request for more time, and reaffirmed the AG's offer to file a joint request with the Colorado Supreme Court, asking the justices to determine if the clerk has the legal authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses -- but only if the Boulder clerk stops issuing those licenses in the meantime.

Look below to see today's letter from the AG's office, as well as an opinion on same-sex marriage circa 1975 supplied to us by Suthers's office (it was scanned sideways but should still be readable) and a timeline of Boulder LGBT history.

Reply to Boulder Same Sex Marriage Request

MacFarlane Opinion on Same Sex Marriage 1975

A Timeline of Boulder LGBT History

From the Calhoun: Wake-up Call archive: "The secrets of Rocky Flats won't stay buried forever."

Have a tip? Send it to patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

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