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Posts for September, 2011

NY Clerk May Be Sued for Imposing Religious Test for Marriage Licenses

Jim Burroway

September 16th, 2011

As Rob Tisinai argued, that should be the headline over every article describing the decision of Rose Marie Belforti, the town clerk in Ledyard, New York, to impose her personal religious test on every person who wants to get married in her town. Last month, she sent a letter to the town board announcing her decision not to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. On August 30, a lesbian couple applied for a license, but were turned away because a deputy who had been assigned the task of doing Belfori’s job for her wasn’t available.

People for the American Way sent a letter to Belforti and town supervisor Mark Jordan demanding that the board direct Belforti to do her job or resign. If they refuse to do that, the town and clerk could face a lawsuit compelling the town and clerk follow New York law:

“Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose what laws they follow,” said PFAW spokesman Drew Courtney. “A county clerk that doesn’t like hunting doesn’t get to not issue hunting licenses. People for the American Way will be the first ones to defend her freedom of conscience, but she signed up to do a job. If she doesn’t want to do that job, she should resign.”

Belforti is an elected official, and it appears the board does not has the authority to force her to resign. Clerks in two other New York counties have already stepped down.