Upstate NY Clerk Refuses to Marry Same-Sex Couples
An upstate New York town clerk, who refused to sign any marriage licenses for gay or straight couples in 2011 after the state legalized gay marriage, is now signing marriage licenses for straight couples.
Gay City News reports Ledyard Town (about 244 miles northwest of New York City) Clerk Rose Marie Belforti said she didn’t feel good about signing the licenses, but said that the couple needed it quickly.
"I can actually say that I am sorry I had to do that and I had to violate my own rule," Belforti told Gay City News in a Jan. 3 interview.
Back in 2011, GCN reported that Belforti had refused to marry Katie Carmichael and Deirdre DiBaggio, saying she was a Christian.
Since the Marriage Equality Act became law on June 24, two town clerks have resigned rather than sign marriage licenses for gay couples and a third stopped officiating at weddings, but still signs licenses. Belforti is the only clerk in the state who wants to keep her job, but not serve same-sex couples when they seek licenses.
According to Towleroad, Belforti made a non-legally binding agreement with her Republican-controlled town council to have a deputy clerk sign marriage licenses by appointment only, to avoid being in violation of the law. A New York district attorney warned town clerks that denying marriage licenses to gay couples could lead to criminal prosecutions. By signing the two marriage licenses for heterosexual couples, Belforti may now be violating state laws by refusing to acknowledge the Marriage Equality Act.
"This essentially shows why the arrangement is problematic in the first place," said Drew Courtney, spokesman for the People For the American Way Foundation (PFAW). "Elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws they enforce. This is about applying the law equally to all people. Every citizen has a right to his or her beliefs and that includes Rose Marie Belforti, but she signed up to do a job and she has to do it. If she doesn’t want to do it, she should resign."