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.


September 16th, 2011

“People for hte American Way sent a letter”

For wont of an “a” this could have been a Freudian slip! ;-)

Joe in California

September 16th, 2011

Burn her to the stake! She’s a witch!
No, but seriously, a law suit is in the wings folks. Does this town want to defend the clerk or the law of the land?


September 16th, 2011

Fire her ass for refusing to do her job. Her religion conflicts with her duties? Then she should move to another job.


September 16th, 2011

Can’t stand the Heat? Get out of the kitchen. Simple.

Timothy Kincaid

September 16th, 2011

I don’t think we serve our cause well with contrived situations. It only makes real discrimination seem petty.

Obviously the lesbian couple chose Ledyard so as to be turned down. It strains credibility to think that this couple truly wanted Ledyard as the site for their vows and promises. Or that they wanted Rose Marie’s cow as a witness.

And as for the indignity of “please schedule an appointment”, I fail to see any great harm. Pretty much everywhere in the nation (Nevada excluded) you have to plan in advance in order to marry.

Sure Rose Marie is thwarting the law. But until this couple decided to make a case out of it, she was the one looking like an idiot. Now she gets to be a martyr.

Let’s fight real battles, not present ourselves as obnoxious assholes trying to create conflict and stir up dissent.

We need to grow beyond “well she shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it!!!” and let Rose Marie be the bigot she is. We won. It won’t kill us to leave Rose Marie and her cow alone. And people will be less likely to fight against us if we are gracious and decent in our victory.

Regan DuCasse

September 16th, 2011

Only up to a point, I can agree Tim.
We can always count on the opposition to use hyperbole and hysteria to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

I can agree we shouldn’t do the same.
Sometimes even making an appointment isn’t an option, depending on the size of a town’s public accommodation and it’s available personnel.

Considering how many states slammed the door shut to marry, I can understand there is more urgency and less luxury of waiting for gay couples.

In Ms. Beforti’s case, she might be considered a martyr in the minds of the anti gay.
But a court proceeding might land some important facts she and her supporters will have to be responsible for.

1. There would be proof that their religious objections are selective and inconsistent.

2. That their religious tests are invisible to prospective heteros who ALSO meet that test, and impossible for gay OR straight couples to know beforehand.

3. That the job is to serve ALL the public, not just the public she’s comfortable with. It’s a public office and public job. Period. The inconsistency in her applying her duties proves she’s not consistent in her religious convictions, NOR her appointed duties.

She’s created a problem for her employer, as well as the public they serve.
And a person who is a PROBLEM at work, and causes them unnecessarily for that public, can’t do her job.

I support the courts shedding a light on these bullshit tactics certain religious people pull, even if the INCIDENT seems petty.
The greater issue is calling out who needs to be called out for the hypocrites they are.

Jim Burroway

September 16th, 2011

Obviously the lesbian couple chose Ledyard so as to be turned down.

How is this obvious? The women own a home in Cayuga County, where Ledyard is located, making the selection an obious one. And the clerk was right there available, just not for them. I don’t see any contriance here.


September 16th, 2011

I agree with Jim. Taking straight folks in to be married right away and making the gay couple drive to another county or wait until later in the week for another employee is not equal protection. Where do these “religious objections” end? What if there were many more clerks like her, to the point a gay couple had to drive across the state to get married? It’s total bs. Timothy, you can side with the bigots all you want. They will paint themselves the martyrs no matter how reasonable our requests are. They will only be satisfied when we are once again made criminals for being gay. I don’t care if it comes out that this all really just was a stunt to prove a point. The point is valid and needed to be made.


September 16th, 2011

@Erin: I don’t believe the couple was seeking to be married on the spot, only to apply for a license, which they were refused. Rose Marie is putting the town on the hook for legal consequences and costs, as well as possible legal action from the State of New York. I hope she has some money stashed offshore someplace, because by the time the lawyers get done with her, in the civil actions sure to come, she won’t be able to afford retirement or likely even to keep her house.

San Diego Rob

September 16th, 2011

As an elected official it is her duty to uphold the law, and I believe the law states that marriage equality exists in NY. The state of NY should sue her as well.


September 17th, 2011

In every one of these discussions, I think it is important to make a distinction about religious freedom and religious accommodation between requiring someone to actually do something that conflicts with their religion and requiring someone to allow someone else to do something that they personally disapprove of for religious reasons.

Requiring an Orthodox Jew to sample non-kosher food would be forcing them to violate their religion, but demanding that they issue a license to or perform an inspection of a non-kosher restaurant isn’t, even if they wouldn’t feel free to patronize the restaurant.

This woman was asked to check ID and documentation and file some government paperwork. She was not asked to marry another woman, or have sex with another woman, or even to conduct a religiously binding ceremony for a same-sex couple. She is welcome to feel that the two women are not married in the eyes of God. She is not welcome to claim her religion forbids her from typing.

But we don’t do anyone any favors by buying into the idea that she was somehow asked to do something in violation of her personal religious beliefs. I know of no religion that prohibits filing. And if there is one, it would be neutral with regards what precisely is being filed.

And even if she does have a point, does she reserve the right to deny licenses to divorced people, or non-Christians, or people who make it clear that they will have an open marriage?

Priya Lynn

September 17th, 2011

Well said Lymis. I was thinking something similar, but I don’t think I could have said it as well as you.


September 17th, 2011

I agree with Lymis as well.


September 17th, 2011

BTB should have a Best Comment of the Day feature and I would nominate this one from Lymis.


September 17th, 2011

Ya know, I’ve had to change jobs about every two years because I work in an extremely volatile industry, rife with mergers and bankruptcy. My job has moved, been dissolved, and changed job descriptions a dozen times.

And every time that happened, I had the choice to go with it or pound sand. The difference between me and these conservative religious types is I didn’t get the ADF to take out press releases about it.

They are pathetic people.

Timothy Kincaid

September 20th, 2011


Taking straight folks in to be married right away and making the gay couple drive to another county or wait until later in the week for another employee is not equal protection.

If I read the story correctly, the appointment is required for all:

“It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s a homosexual couple or a heterosexual couple. If they show up, they are told they will need to make an appointment.”


The women own a home in Cayuga County, where Ledyard is located, making the selection an obious one.

Cayuga Co is 900 sq. miles and has a population of about 80,000. It has population 1,886 and abuts Scipio, of which it was once part.

Cayuga County’s total population for 2000 was 81,963. The largest proportion of this population resides within the center of the County and includes the City of Auburn with a population of 28,574, surrounded by the five towns of Sennett, Throop, Owasco, Fleming and Aurelius. Other than the City of Auburn, there are twenty-three incorporated towns in Cayuga County ranging in population from Brutus with 4,777 residents in 2000 to Sempronius with 893 residents.

The women own a home about a mile outside another small city and about 15 miles from Ledyard. And though they had to drive through three other cities to get there, they opted to request their marriage license in Ledyard.

Now it is entirely possible that they unknowingly wandered into Ledyard unbeknown of the certain fate of that request and on the spur of the moment were inspired to marry by Ledyard’s charm and beauty. But when I smell contrivance – and say so – I’m thinking that I’m the one with “obvious” on my side.

To all,

Yes, yes, obviously we are right and she is wrong. And it goes as certain that she will lose any ensuing legal battle. Of course Rose Marie should do her job and of course she isn’t entitled to deny equality and of course she should “serve everyone or quit”.

But just what the hell will we gain from this? Will a solitary gay person benefit? Nope.

This is one of those “well, I’ll show her” moments. “She won’t get away with this!!”

No. She won’t.

Even if we have to appear to be outsiders pushing our way into a small town to “impose our agenda” on the locals. Even if we have to create discrimination in order to object to it.

I guess it’s a sign of progress that we have to use contrived discrimination. I guess that means that we have no real battles to fight.

But sometimes, folks, it’s smarter not to be the aggressor, even when you are in the right. Sometimes it’s wiser to treat the oddities as such instead of raising their stature to one of importance.

Now Rose Marie will be a hero in the eyes of her people. Now more money will be raised by anti-gay activists. Now a martyr has been created out of whole cloth. The anti-gays are delighted.

But as for our community, the only thing we have gained is a story that we have to explain to Aunt Thelma at Thanksgiving. And so now we all get the “Yes, but the poor woman assigned someone else” conversation.

Sorry, but I don’t think this was a good idea at all.

Priya Lynn

September 20th, 2011

You’re entitled to your opinion, Timothy.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.