Monday, June 15, 2009

Boulder has long been a cultural early-adapter. Lord, have mercy.

By Silvia Pettem -

In 1975, Boulder’s County Clerk made headlines when, for a brief period of time, she issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At the time, Colorado law did not specify that marriage had to be between a man and a woman.

Then, as a joke, the late Roswell “Ros” Howard applied for a marriage license to wed Dolly, his horse.

First, the 63-year-old man obtained a parade permit from the city so that he could (in Boulder’s pre-pedestrian mall days) park Dolly and his horse trailer on Pearl Street directly in front of the courthouse. The Boulder Police Department promised to provide traffic control.

With Bob Palmer, television reporter for CBS news, standing by, Howard entered the courthouse on April 15, 1975. He was quoted as asking, “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?”

Even though Howard’s application was turned down, he was greeted as a celebrity by a crowd of people on the courthouse lawn. The next day’s Daily Camera commented that the clerk “said ‘neigh’ to galloping couple.” Howard’s efforts had made it into newspapers coast-to-coast and even overseas. His attempt also elicited a comment by Johnny Carson on his television program, the “Tonight Show.”

In Howard’s own account—an unpublished manuscript titled “Dolly and Me”—the license was refused because the “bride” was only eight years old and couldn’t provide consent in writing from her parents.

Being underage, however, wasn’t an issue after all. What was important to Howard was that he had bucked the system and had made people laugh. Howard didn’t have a leg to stand on, but he did inject some humor into an otherwise controversial situation.

(Daily Camera 4/25/02)
(More on this story can be found in Silvia Pettem’s book Positively Pearl Street. See

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