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New York Town Clerk Refuses to Sign Marriage Licenses

New York Town Clerk Refuses to Sign Marriage Licenses


A town clerk in Cayuga County in New York notified her town board that her religious beliefs prevent her from signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and asked that she be allowed to delegate the task to a deputy.

According to the Auburn Citizen, "Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti submitted a letter to the Ledyard Town Board saying that her religious beliefs prevented her from signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and the board discussed Belforti's letter at Monday's meeting, according to John Binns, a member of the town board."

When reached for comment, the Citizen reports that Belforti said, "That's not your business," but Binns said her letter cited a state law that would allow her to assign the task to a deputy clerk. No other members of the town board commented to the newspaper.

A database maintained by the Empire Center for New York State Policy indicates that Belforti earned $19,116 as town clerk in 2010. She joins a handful of colleagues who have taken stands against the new marriage equality law; two clerks resigned before the law took effect last month and others have argued that they should be allowed to delegate any service involving same-sex couples.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a group of evangelical Protestants that lobbied against marriage equality, launched the Courage Fund to assist clerks who do not want to comply with the new law. The group, which contends that the new law does not offer adequate religious protections for clerks, posted a memo containing legal advice from the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian group, on its website. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms has also filed a lawsuit challenging the process and procedures surrounding the passage of the marriage equality law in the state senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he expects town clerks to follow the new law or leave their posts.

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