“It was the right thing to do, so she did it.”

That’s Out Boulder County Executive Director Mardi Moore on former Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex, who died Sunday nearly half a century after signing the country’s very first same-sex marriage license in 1975. I spoke to Moore about the history-making public servant whose legacy leaves lessons for contemporary LGBTQ allies. You can read all about it in today’s top stories, part of our local history beat.

Plus, John Herrick explains the motion filed by city attorneys on Friday to dismiss the ACLU of Colorado’s lawsuit related to Boulder’s public camping ban. We also have the latest on the outdoor dining pilot program, a new summer schedule for city council and more.

See you back here on Friday! ✌️

– Jezy, managing editor

Clela Rorex (left) and Mardi Moore at the Out Boulder County Garden Party in 2021. Credit: Christopher Cleary

Quickly

🌤️ Warmer, with a possible t-storm: Expect highs in the upper-80s today under partly cloudy skies, with a thunderstorm possible in the afternoon. Similar conditions should be in store for the rest of the week.

🍽️ Outdoor dining pilot approved: The Boulder City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a five-year outdoor dining pilot program. The city will require restaurants to obtain a permit, pay right-of-way and program fees, and build dining spaces to certain standards. Restaurants that do not want to be part of the program have until Aug. 31, 2022 to get rid of their outdoor dining infrastructure, officials said. Separately, Boulder City Council will discuss later this summer whether to keep West Pearl closed to cars.

🏖️ Summer break for city council: On the Summer Solstice, city councilmembers broke last night for their three-week summer break. When they return on July 14, they will begin meeting on Thursdays. The change is designed to make it easier for councilmembers and city staff to manage their weekly workload.

🙋‍♀️ Advisory panelists wanted: Residents interested in serving on advisory panels related to the city’s housing policy have until July 8 to apply. The city is seeking applications to serve on the Affordable Housing Technical Review Group, which advises the city manager on affordable housing funding, and the Community Development Advisory Panel, which advises the city manager on capital improvement projects for low-income households. City residents (and non residents) can apply for three-year terms by submitting an application. Spanish applications are available upon request.

More opportunities: Homeless Solutions for Boulder County is also accepting applications to serve on a new working group, Innovation and Design, which will consider ideas to address homelessness. Apply here before the June 30 deadline.

🗳️ Election approaching: The June 28 primary election is a little under one week away. Ballots have been mailed to all eligible voters, according to the Boulder County Elections Division.  Click here for more information and important dates, and read our campaign finance election rundown to learn more about who’s running.

🚧 CO 119 transportation projects: Boulder County, the Colorado Department of Transportation and RTD invite the public to attend a virtual meeting on projects being designed for CO 119 between Boulder and Longmont. Tune in Monday, June 27, 5:30–7 p.m. Register here.

Top Stories

City of Boulder seeks to dismiss lawsuit alleging civil rights violations under its camping ban

By John Herrick

The City of Boulder is defending its controversial laws allowing police to ticket homeless people who sleep in public spaces, according to court filings that seek to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of unhoused residents. 

The lawsuit, brought by the ACLU of Colorado in May, aims to overturn the ordinances banning camping and possession of tents on city property. The group’s attorneys argue that making it a crime for people to sleep outside when there isn’t capacity available at the city’s main shelter — or when policies restrict who gets a bed — violates constitutionally protected rights of unhoused people.  

The motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed in Boulder County District Court on Friday, June 17. Attorneys representing the city said in the filing the laws are needed to prevent “permanent tent cities being established on public land.” 

“The existence of such communities would not only deprive other citizens of the use of the occupied public lands,” wrote Luis Toro, senior assistant city attorney, “but would raise the potential for public health problems that would arise if the city became host to entire communities disconnected from the city’s water and sewer systems and without trash collection service.” 

The city’s motion kicks off what will likely be a closely watched debate in the courts over the constitutionality of its longstanding camping ban, first adopted in 1980. Such ordinances are common in cities across the country but have come under frequent legal challenges due to concerns that they almost exclusively punish homeless people who have nowhere else to sleep. 

‘It was the right thing to do, so she did it’: The legacy of former Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex, who issued the country’s first same-sex marriage license in 1975, leaves lessons for today’s LGBTQ allies

By Jezy J. Gray

When former Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex died this weekend at the age of 78, she left behind a legacy of equality that will resonate in the halls of local history and throughout the world. 

But Rorex didn’t have a social revolution in mind when she signed the first same-sex marriage license in the United States on a spring day in 1975. 

“This wasn’t a big political move: ‘Let’s get all the gays married.’ It was an individual decision that there wasn’t any law that said we couldn’t,” says Out Boulder County Executive Director Mardi Moore. “It was the right thing to do, so she did it. She had no idea what waves she was going to create.”

Those waves came fast and hard for Rorex, who soon found herself in the eye of a media firestorm that thrust Boulder County into the national spotlight. For LGBTQ people and early allies in the fight for marriage equality, issuing a license to wed two men named Dave from Colorado Springs made her a hero — but for reactionaries at home and across the country, Rorex swiftly became a target for harassment. 

“You are a shame and disgrace to decent society,” a Baptist pastor from Oklahoma City wrote in a letter to the clerk’s office that summer. Other typed and handwritten notes — collected and partially displayed by the Museum of Boulder as part of its archive collection — lambasted the county clerk as “emotionally sick,” condemning the mother of three to the “deepest regions of Hell.”

“I had whole church congregations in Longmont writing me letters. I was preached about from the pulpits,” Rorex said in a 2015 interview conducted as part of Boulder Public Library’s Maria Rogers Oral History Program. 

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BRL Picks

🚲 Book a bike: Need a lift during Bike to Work Day? Boulder Public Library offers free Boulder BCycle passes for card holders as part of its Book a Bike program. Just visit the accounts desk at the Main Library and staff will loan you a BCycle fob with directions. At the end of each 60-minute ride, simply return your bike to any Boulder BCycle station and you’re good to go.

🗺️ Mapping local history: Discover the hidden history of downtown Louisville on two feet as part of the city’s Walk and Bike Month initiatives. Kids can check out hidden history backpacks filled with items to aid their journey of discovery. Residents and visitors of all ages can use the city’s online resource with historic locations of interest to get started with nothing but a smartphone.

🇲🇽 BoCo Latino history tour: Want to experience Museum of Boulder’s Voces Vivas: Stories from the Latino Community in Boulder, Past and Present with the guidance of a local expert? Saturday from 1–3 p.m. is your last chance to catch a tour of the exhibition with local historian and activist Phil Hernandez. (Be sure and read our story about the show before your visit.)

🧠 Re-train your brain: Boulder County Public Health hosts a free virtual event today from 3–5 p.m. for residents “to learn about the neuroscience of stress, anxiety and trauma, positive strategies, and resources for teens, adults and professionals.” No registration required. Tune in here.

Covid-19 Updates: June 22, 2022

  • 196 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Down 30% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 17 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) ⬆️Up from a high of 14 last week.
  • 49% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 69% since July 2020.

What We’re Reading

📖 CU regents chair defends ‘conservative thought’ program despite visiting scholar’s role in Jan. 6 insurrection: “Jack Kroll, the chair of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, said the Benson Center at the University of Colorado Boulder is a ‘valuable part of the university’s community,’ following intense scrutiny of the center due to its relationship with insurrection figure John Eastman. … a visiting scholar of conservative thought at the center at the time he was serving as a lawyer to former President Donald Trump and, according to testimony during recent hearings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, conspired to illegally overturn the 2020 election results.” [Colorado Newsline]

ICYMI from BRL

❤️‍🩹 ‘Some bruises, some cuts, but it survived’: In the ashes of the Marshall Fire, recovered objects illuminate priceless memories and the intangible cost of the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. Three stories of survivors who found new meaning in old keepsakes after the blaze. A BRL collaboration with KUNC and NPR.

🏠 What does a fire resilient property look like? One Boulder County resident’s home offers a glimpse. Join ‘geology nut’ Howard Gordon on a guided tour of his Wildfire Partners certified house.

🏳️‍🌈 Colorado becomes latest state to collect LGBTQ data to address health disparities. Out Boulder County helped make it happen. The new law will allow the state health department to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity. It came after the nonprofit surveyed residents and found vaccine, mental health and other disparities.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.