Clerk In New York Refuses To Sign Marriage Licences For Gay Married Couples

Ledyard town clerk Rose Marie Belforti tacitly admits to imposing theocratic law on her constituents in blatant disregard for the actual laws she is tasked with enforcing:

That all changed in August when Belforti sent a letter to the Ledyard town board two weeks after the Marriage Equality Act became law in New York, allowing same-sex couples to marry. The letter cited Belforti’s religious beliefs as a reason she could not sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Belforti also asked for permission to designate a deputy clerk, who would be responsible for issuing all marriage licenses.

In an interview with The Citizen at her home Wednesday, Belforti said she answers to a “higher court” — God — and teachings in the Bible tell her that same-sex marriage is wrong.

“I am a Christian. I believe marriage was created by God as a blessing to be shared between a man and a woman spiritually, emotionally and physically,” Belforti said. “Man cannot legislate a divinely ordained institution by a majority vote of those who do not recognize the sanctity of marriage, as God intended it to be. My conscience, which is also God-given, does not allow me to endorse same-sex marriage.”

This is why every single candidate for public office who starts talking about his or her views on God as a qualification for their governance needs to have his or her views on the separation of church and state rigorously examined.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Ibis3, féministe avec un titre française de fantaisie

    It’s strange that these people can’t separate legal marriage from religious marriage in their minds (only when it comes to same-sex marriage). What does it matter to her if the state says Bob and Dave are married? She can go on believing that they aren’t married in the eyes of God, right? Catholics do it: can’t get married in the church unless the priest says okay; can’t get a religious divorce no matter what the courts have decreed (which is why you can’t re-marry unless you have a divorce sanctioned by the church). Orthodox Jews do the same: can’t marry unless you’re both Jewish and can’t divorce without a religious get. And it’s not just marriage. A child isn’t “christened” by putting its name on the birth certificate, it has to be named in a ceremony *in* *the* *church*. They can set up whatever restrictions they want. They just can’t make the laws of their church pertain to everyone in the state. Can you imagine what she’d say if the majority voted tomorrow and said only Hindu weddings were valid and everyone has to follow their rules about who can marry or divorce?

  • F

    This is all very inconsistent and hypocritical. Whereas these idiots somehow recognize the fact that a religious marriage ceremony without a marriage license means nothing, and that marriage is a contract between two people recognized by the state for legal reasons, these idiots still persist with their “conscientious objections” of same-sex marriages.

    If they object on religious grounds, do they object every time, and refuse to sign marriage licenses for people who are not married according to their sect, or religion, or in a civil-only manner? If not, they are just liars and hypocrites.

    No one said your church has to recognize any marriage not blessed by your church. The problem for the haters is that this doesn’t matter to anyone not in the particular club, rendering the opinions of that club irrelevant to the world at large. So these “objectors” who have managed their way into civil bureaucracy or public office must attempt to legislate against, or mildly annoy any couple whose marriage they don’t particularly like.

    And if Belforti or anyone else of the same persuasion and circumstance can’t sign the damn license, they should be fired for gross incompetence and legal violations. And probably fined. And it should be easy to get some damages against them in civil court.

  • Francisco Bacopa

    Suck a clerk is charged with acting in accord with the law. If the law says same sex couples can marry, the clerk must perform that duty or be replaced. It’s part of the job description.

  • Aliasalpha

    If you’re employed to do a job, then you do your damned job or get a new one.

    Like with all bigotry, you just have to swap the prejudices to see how vile and idiotic it is. EG: “I’m sorry I can’t set up bank accounts for black people because its my belief that they’re subhuman”

  • Alexandra

    I thought people were concerned about our economic crisis. Public officials here in Southern California make up to 44 dollars an hour before you add in all the benefits. Now one woman wants the state to pay two wages, one to her and one to her clerk, for the purposes of doing the job that SHE was hired to do. If she honestly believes that giving same-sex couples a marriage license is against her religion, why would she even want to still work in a state institution that condones same-sex marriage? How about we just hire her newly appointed clerk to do BOTH of their jobs.

  • kennypo65

    Hire the assistant clerk she requested, then bounce her out on her ass. See if her god will pay her bills.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    If I were on the town board I’d give Belforti two choices, either do your job according to the law or quit. If she refused to make the choice then she would be fired for willful inability to perform her duties.

  • Hazuki

    Old story. Given what I know of morals and how they develop, I can’t fault her though; she’s simply working on her internalized values and intuitions. She hasn’t examined them, largely because the system that gave them to her forbids it, but c’est la vie. She should resign, as it is the right thing to do in this case; she harms no one (but maybe herself), and she doesn’t have to harm her own conscience. Would that she would educate herself.

  • Stilts

    Well, she kind of has a point.

    I mean, if any time you didn’t particularly want to perform a task, you could get your boss to hire a “deputy” for the specific purpose of performing that task for you, wouldn’t you be a happier person?

    Your employer would go bankrupt, but surely your right to avoid work which you find distasteful is more important than something as vulgar as doing the job you were hired to do.

    (Disclaimer: As a person with a disability myself, I certainly understand that, for persons with disabilities, virtually every job will involve some tasks which they are either unable to perform or which will be extremely extremely difficult and draining to perform. Accommodating these people is, in my view, miles apart from this clerk, who is effectively behaving as a six-year-old child sitting in the back of the car and howling “BUT I DUN WANNNNNNNNNAAAAAAA” as her parents drive her to the dentist.)

  • Deb Kerr

    If a person’s religion interferes with them doing the tasks accompanying their chosen occupation, then it’s time relieve them of that position so that they may select another career more appropriate to their belief system. Could anything be more simple?

  • DiscoveredJoys

    A similar case in the UK (although different employment laws apply) was the Registrar Lillian Ladele.

    See http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2010/06/07/55824/sacked-christian-registrar-lillian-ladele-wins-holiday-pay.html as a summary and link to other pages.

  • lordshipmayhem

    Giving this woman a deputy will not work. She would be responsible for ensuring that her deputy did the job properly, which means she would have to review and approve of his/her performance.

    That is much the same as doing the job herself. Therefore, she’s back where she started: unable to do the job for which she was hired.

    She has little choice but to either do her job, resign her job or be fired from her job – fired for cause.

  • Didaktylos

    Let Belforti personally hire her deputy – and pay them out of her own salary.

  • boopsey

    In all fairness, it wasn’t a part of her job description when she took the position, so it’s not like it was something she was aware of when accepting the job and it’s responsibilities.

    It seems to me that if a deputy clerk is already on the payroll doing other tasks, it’s not inappropriate for her to request a reorganization of work responsibilities to accommodate her religious beliefs which are in conflict with the new law.

    On the other hand, if it would require a great deal of expense or new resources are required, it would be more appropriate for her to resign/be fired. After all, it is paramount that her office fulfill all the obligations required of it.

  • 24fps

    We had a similar case in Canada with a marriage commissioner in Saskatchewan:

    http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/01/10/marriage-commissioners-cant-refuse-same-sex-ceremonies-sask-court/

    Ultimately, the court of appeal ruled that the commissioner would have to sign the licenses for same sex couples regardless his beliefs.

  • https://plus.google.com/118257424757120514940 Cass Morrison

    Why is these super moral people can never make the ethical choice. If you can’t do the job, leave it.

  • Paul Coyne

    It’[s perfectly simple. If her beliefs prevent her from doing her job she should resign….. and consider the lilies at her leisure.

  • Danaleigh

    boopsey -

    It seems to me that if a deputy clerk is already on the payroll doing other tasks, it’s not inappropriate for her to request a reorganization of work responsibilities to accommodate her religious beliefs which are in conflict with the new law.

    I might agree with this except for two things:

    1) This isn’t a “job” but an elected office. She went to the public – all of the public – and asked them to give her the responsibilities of this job, and to place in them their trust in her ability to do it. If your argument that the job she asked to be allowed to do has changed is valid, then it seems to me that the only fair thing to do is to allow the public the chance to give the job to someone who will do it under the new requirements.

    2) The article specifically stated that the deputy clerk works only limited hours and that same-sex couples who try to get this done when the deputy clerk is not there are being turned away and told they must come back another time. I don’t think the clerk’s right to have her religious views accomodated extends to being allowed to place a delay or inconvenience in the path of gay couples that isn’t there for straight couples. And she specifically said she didn’t think the county could justify the cost of a full-time deputy clerk.

  • Trebuchet

    I was just imagining the outrage among the Xian right if a Muslim clerk voiced the same objection. Creeping Sharia!

  • Joe

    Is she also the person who dealsmwith filing divorce papers? While Jesus never spoke out against homosexuality, he was adamant about divorce. Also, if marriage is a sacred institution, why isn’t she standing up against signing marriage certificates for atheists? Others on here are right, the certificates she signs have nothing to do with religious marriage, they are secular contracts. Shevcan keep believing everything her pastor tells her, but she still needs to do her job or quit.

  • http://www.biblecounts.com/JustAsk Gary

    I am pretty sure you will discount me because I AM one of those Christians who believes that Marriage is between a man and a woman.
    The important things to look at are:
    1) at what point did the re-definition of marriage take precedence over my right to “Freedom of Religion” as defined in two places in my Constitution (a):
    2) If I can not discriminate based on Race, Color, religion, Sex or sexual preference, Why is is now acceptable for you to REVERSE discriminate against me because of the same? Between affirmative action and “hate crime” law all white heterosexual males (and many females) can no longer speak, work, share views, and so many other things.
    3) If you want to seperate CIVIL “Marriage” and “Religious” Marriage. (which I am in favor of) than STOP TRYING TO CALL IT MARRIAGE. The reality is that what you are after is a 100% Civil Union state. All LEGAL marriages fall under that category. We were not the ones trying to re-define the term marriage.

    Constitution notes:
    (a)in the First Amendment, and the Article VI prohibition on religious tests as a condition for holding public office. The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” This provision was later expanded to state and local governments, through the Incorporation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  • Danaleigh

    1) at what point did the re-definition of marriage take precedence over my right to “Freedom of Religion” as defined in two places in my Constitution

    Exactly how does giving gay couples the right to the secular civil legal status of “married” have *anything at all* to do with your right to religion? How does it affect anything about your life at all, let alone your right to believe and practice your religion?

    2) If I can not discriminate based on Race, Color, religion, Sex or sexual preference, Why is is now acceptable for you to REVERSE discriminate against me because of the same? Between affirmative action and “hate crime” law all white heterosexual males (and many females) can no longer speak, work, share views, and so many other things.

    Again, how is allowing gay couples the right to the same secular, civil legal status heterosexual couples of all faiths or no faith take for granted discriminating against YOU? If you don’t intend to marry someone of the same gender, then how does it have anything to do with you at all? Somebody else being legally allowed to do something you don’t morally think they should do is not discrimination – denying someone else legal and financial benefits that you get but don’t think they deserve because you morally disapprove of them is discrimination. And how are you or anyone else prevented from speaking, working, or sharing your views? Seems like you’re pretty much sharing your views right now, and I don’t see anyone stopping you from doing so.

    3) If you want to seperate CIVIL “Marriage” and “Religious” Marriage. (which I am in favor of) than STOP TRYING TO CALL IT MARRIAGE.

    The problem with that is, the law *does* call it marriage. That’s not our fault. If you want to change the law so that the law (in all 50 states and the federal government) recognizes “civil unions” between couples, gay and straight, with the same benefits, and marriage is strictly something between the couple and their temple/mosque/church/religion of their choosing in which the government has no interest at all, then I’m all for that. But personally I think that’s a bigger social/legal change than simply 1) admitting the simple fact that the word marriage today has two meanings, a religious union and a secular legal status that is recognized no matter what faith, if any, the couple follows, and 2) acknowledging that it is discrimination to deny the benefits of the secular legal status to couples based on their sexual orientation.


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