Christian clerk apologises over gay marriage licence refusal

Christian clerk apologises over gay marriage licence refusal April 17, 2019

THE town of Root in upstate New York found itself at the centre of a homophobia row last year when a Christian clerk –  Laurel “Sherrie” Eriksen – cited religious reasons for denying  a gay couple a marriage license.

Dylan, left, and Thomas. Image via Facebook

The matter came to satisfactory conclusion last week when Erikson had to publicly apologise to Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd, above. The couple were also awarded $25,000.

This, however, is bound to infuriate Albany Update – “Influencing Legislation and Legislators for the Lord Jesus Christ” – which, in October last year, portrayed Erikson as a the injured party after news of the snub went viral. The Christian site said under this headline:

Clerk Eriksen’s handling of this situation seems reasonable to us; however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sees the matter differently. Accusing Eriksen of committing ‘an unconscionable act of discrimination’, the Governor has ordered an investigation. Furthermore, Gov. Cuomo has invited the two men to Albany and offered to officiate at their ‘wedding’.

There are several problems here. First, New York’s so-called Marriage Equality Act – which would not have become law without the Gov. Cuomo’s support and advocacy– contains no language allowing public employees with faith-based objections to opt out of providing same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses.

Second, New York has not passed a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA); if it had, Eriksen’s rights of conscience would likely be protected here. In this situation, accommodating Eriksen’s beliefs would not have caused the two men to incur any hardship in obtaining a license. The men were not scheduled to ‘marry’ until August 18; they had plenty of time to make an appointment with the Deputy Clerk or to visit the Canajoharie Town Clerk’s Office (just seven miles away, and open Monday through Friday) instead.

If Gov. Cuomo wants to point fingers in this situation, he should look in the mirror and point them at himself for his failure to enact laws that protect the rights and freedoms of all New Yorkers – not just those who share his social and political views.

Here’s the bottom line: Public employees should not be forced into situations where they must either violate God’s laws, violate man’s laws, or quit their jobs. Please keep Town Clerk Sherrie Eriksen in your prayers.

This cutting was posted on Dylan Toften-Hurd’s Facebook page on April 11.

Last July, the couple visited the clerk’s office in Root, about 50 miles from Albany. After they applied for a marriage licence, Eriksen refused to process their request, claiming she could not do so because of her religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage.

Toften and Hurd sued, alleging that the refusal violated New York’s Marriage Equality Act, as well as federal and state civil rights laws.

The couple subsequently obtained a licence in the nearby town of Cobleskill and were eventually married.

Last Thursday, Lambda Legal, representing Toften and Hurd, reached a settlement with the town. As part of the settlement, Eriksen has agreed to abide by the town’s official policy, which states that any qualified couples who apply for a marriage license must be granted one, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

We are pleased to reach this settlement with the Town of Root which reaffirms its duty to treat all couples with the same dignity and respect under the law. No government official should be able to refuse to perform their duties because of a constituent’s identity, sex, or sexual orientation.

The law recognizes the equal dignity of same-sex couples, and so too must every government official. We hope this serves as a reminder to government officials in every town – no matter its size – that marriage equality is the law of the land and that religious beliefs do not grant a license to discriminate.

At the town Board meeting last Wednesday, Eriksen read aloud the public apology she issued to Toften and Hurd.

In my capacity as town clerk, it is my responsibility to provide marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, so long as they meet all applicable New York State legal requirements. As such, my office, and I personally, will issue marriage licenses to any couple, without exception, who is legally entitled to be issued one.

On July 30th of last year, there was an unfortunate incident involving Mr. Thomas Hurd and Mr. Dylan Toften who came to my office seeking a marriage license. I am sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple.

The couple celebrated their victory, saying they feel “vindicated and grateful” that the town will respect their family and all other same-sex couples going forward.

Toften said in a statement.

We are happy the state of New York supports our marriage and that we were able to not allow this one town clerk in our town to get away with violating the law and discriminating against LGBT families.

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  • johnsoncatman

    Clerk Eriksen’s handling of this situation seems reasonable to us; however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sees the matter differently.

    It only seems reasonable to you because you are a bunch of authoritarian, bigoted, discriminatory, shitheads.

    First, New York’s so-called Marriage Equality Act – which would not have become law without the Gov. Cuomo’s support and advocacy– contains no language allowing public employees with faith-based objections to opt out of providing same-sex ‘marriage’ licenses.

    I suspect the omission was intentional. If public employees cannot do the job they were hired to do (serve the public, which includes everybody), they should get another job. And it is a marriage license not a “marriage” license because the union would be a real marriage not a “fake” one.

    Second, New York has not passed a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA); if it had, Eriksen’s rights of conscience would likely be protected here. In this situation, accommodating Eriksen’s beliefs would not have caused the two men to incur any hardship in obtaining a license.

    RFRA = Reason For Religious Assholes to discriminate. Rights of conscience = my right to discriminate against you. Accomodating Eriksen’s beliefs, not incur hardship = I will just inconvenience you as much as I can by not doing my job.

  • wannabe

    When I saw the headline I thought she had spontaneously apologised. No such luck.

  • Ann Kah

    I’m sorry the apology had to be forced out of her. That makes it meaningless.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Yeah, this shit happened not to far away from me. Go ahead Florida, gloat.

  • Hunterand Rene

    Yes the apology was fake but I still enjoy knowing someone said “I dont care you have to apologize!”

  • CoastalMaineBird

    failure to enact laws that protect the rights and freedoms of all New Yorkers
    It’s right there in the Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
    “Congress, the several States, Counties, Cities, Towns, and Villages shall make NO law which offends any citizen of said jurisdiction, or fails to protect said citizen from any offense.
    The penalty for any such transgressions shall be to forever abide in a free society.”

  • persephone

    Their lord, Jesus Christ, was only one of many Christian martyrs, but these whiners won’t even change jobs to prove their faith.

  • Matt G

    It’s probably more accurate to say she issued an apology than to say she apologized.

  • Die Anyway

    Ha ha! New York Woman will never come close to Florida Man. Yeeha!

  • Die Anyway

    > “…they feel “vindicated and grateful” that the town will respect their family and all other same-sex couples going forward.”

    Well… I doubt that any minds were changed. Those who already respected same-sex marriage will continue to do so and those who didn’t still won’t. The best we got out of it is a government office that won’t continue to discriminate. And I guess that’s something.

  • Die Anyway

    Not for you I suppose. Just stay inside your little bubble and let the rest of the world pass you by.

  • Brian Curtis

    This is the outcome we should have seen with Kim Davis in Kentucky, of course. Government employees are there to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.

    Public employees should not be forced into situations where they must either violate God’s laws, violate man’s laws, or quit their jobs.

    Oh yes they should. Or rather, they should know and accept in advance that they’ll have to uphold the Constitution no matter what private religious beliefs they hold BEFORE they take a government job. You can’t put your personal faith ahead of the rights of your fellow citizens, ever.

  • Brian Curtis

    In your opinion… but of course, your opinion (and even your god’s) doesn’t count for squat in our gloriously secular nation.

  • Larry Dawson

    The town clerk who pulled that thing should not be in an office which might require doing something contrary to faith, in the first place.

  • fifthdentist

    Replace all instances of “gay” in this article with the corresponding form of “adultery” and see how Christians would react.

    Last July, the couple (both of whom are divorced) visited the clerk’s office in Root, about 50 miles from Albany. After they applied for a marriage licence, Eriksen refused to process their request, claiming she could not do so because of her religious beliefs opposing adulterous marriage.

  • fifthdentist

    But what do you think about two divorced people getting married?
    What about two divorced people marrying who have shrimp cocktails at the wedding reception?
    What if the divorced people who got married served shrimp cocktails at their wedding reception while wearing clothing of mixed fibers?
    What if they also serve wine and booze at the reception? (Proverbs 20:1).
    What if the woman’s period comes early and arrives unexpectedly on her wedding morning? Shouldn’t she be put away until she is no longer “unclean”? So the marriage obviously would have to be delayed for a good week and a half-ish.

    The Bible calls both shellfish and clothing of mixed fiber an “abomination.”
    It also calls for stoning adulterers to death. And Jesus declared that if a man marries a divorced woman, both of them are committing adultery (assuming they have sex, I suppose).

  • Robert Baden

    Neither will the relationship between Trump and Melania then.