Local clerk in New York refuses to sign gay marriage licenses

I have so little patience for this bullshit.

After New York legalized same-sex marriage last June, some local clerks resigned rather than have to sign marriage licenses for gay couples. But in Ledyard, a rural upstate town, the town clerk Rose Marie Belforti avoids committing that terrible sin by having her deputy sign all marriage licenses instead. She explains, “God doesn’t want me to do this, so I can’t do what God doesn’t want me to do.”

Now a lesbian couple who didn’t want to reschedule with her deputy (you know, since they already waited for a decade to be able to get legally hitched) is considering filing a lawsuit. If they do, the case could test “how the state balances a religious freedom claim by a local official against a civil rights claim by a same-sex couple.”

The New York Times reports:

Ms. Belforti, represented by a Christian legal advocacy group based in Arizona, the Alliance Defense Fund, is arguing that state law requires New York to accommodate her religious beliefs.

“New York law protects my right to hold both my job and my beliefs,” she said in an interview last week, pausing briefly to collect $50 from a resident planning to take 20 loads of refuse to the town dump. “I’m not supposed to have to leave my beliefs at the door at my government job.”

That’s ridiculous. I’m a big fan of religious freedom. I want to live in pluralistic society where everyone’s religious beliefs are respected and accommodated as much as possible. If your religion can be accommodated by, for example, being able to wear a covering on your head or take holy days off from work, that’s great. But when it requires allowing you to not actually do your job, there’s a problem.

Especially when your job just happens to involve helping other people to exercise their legal rights. As Governor Cuomo said, “When you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get to pick and choose.”

So, no, Ms. Belforti–New York law does not necessarily protect your right to hold your job and your homophobic beliefs. It’s just that for a long time they happened to coincide. But that’s changed. If your beliefs now prevent you from carrying out the duties of your job, then it sounds like you’ve gotta ditch one or the other.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation