Upstate NY Town Clerk Continues Granting Only Opposite-Sex Marriage Licenses - Gay City News | Gay City News

Upstate NY Town Clerk Continues Granting Only Opposite-Sex Marriage Licenses

Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti. | FACEBOOK.COM

Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti. | FACEBOOK.COM

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | A New York town clerk who in 2011 said she would no longer sign any marriage licenses because her religious beliefs barred her from signing them for same-sex couples violated her pledge when she signed marriage licenses for two heterosexual couples in 2012.

“I can actually say that I am sorry that I had to do that and I had to violate my own rule,” Rose Marie Belforti, the Ledyard town clerk, told Gay City News in a January 3 phone interview.

In August of 2011, just over one month after same-sex couples began marrying in New York, Belforti refused to issue a marriage license to a lesbian couple, citing her religious beliefs. In the fall of that year, Belforti and Ledyard’s Republican-controlled town council agreed that she would no longer issue any marriage licenses and a part-time deputy clerk would handle that responsibility by appointment only.

Despite her pledge to stand down from issuing licenses altogether, Ledyard’s Rose Marie Belforti cooperated with heterosexual couples

In one instance, the couple needed the license quickly, Belforti said. She offered no explanation for issuing the second marriage license.

“I do make every effort to do what I said I was going to do,” Belforti said. “I was in an expedited situation and I did it for them… I didn’t feel good about that either.”

In 2011, 2012, and 2013, Ledyard issued 20 marriage licenses, according to state health department records. The deputy clerk signed 15 of those, with one issued in 2013 to a same-sex couple, and Belforti signed the remaining five, though three were issued before she denied a license to the lesbian couple. By signing the two licenses in 2012, Belforti now looks like she is refusing to sign marriage licenses only for same-sex couples, an act that may violate state law.

Belforti’s deal with her town council, which was probably not legally binding, was unusual. Ledyard never before had a deputy clerk post –– “I do all the work myself and I rarely hire a deputy,” she told the council at the timeand the new position allowed Belforti to keep her job, but not perform part of her job. Belforti was assisted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a right-wing legal group formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund.

In 2011, two other New York town clerks who also had religious objections to same-sex unions resigned their positions rather than sign marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples. A third clerk stopped presiding over all marriages, but still signed the licenses. There are  more than 930 town clerks in New York.

“This essentially shows why the arrangement is problematic in the first place,” said Drew Courtney, spokesman for the People For the American Way Foundation (PFAW). “Elected officials cannot pick and choose which laws they enforce. This is about applying the law equally to all people. Every citizen has a right to his or her beliefs and that includes Rose Marie Belforti, but she signed up to do a job and she has to do it. If she doesn’t want to do it, she should resign.”

The civil rights group represented the couple, Katie Carmichael and Deirdre DiBiaggio, after they were refused the license. When they applied for the license, they were accompanied by Arthur J. Bellinzoni, a PFAW board member.

“Fundamentally, this is about applying the law equally,” Courtney said. “By signing marriage licenses for some and not for others, that principle is being violated.”

Following the 2011 uproar, Belforti faced Ed Easter, a write-in candidate, in her reelection bid that year and won with 314 votes to Easter’s 226. In 2013, she had no opponent when she again faced the voters.

As Gay City News posted this story, neither State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office nor Cayuga County District Attorney Jon E. Budelman’s office had provided comment in response to the newspaper’s inquiry.

18 Responses to Upstate NY Town Clerk Continues Granting Only Opposite-Sex Marriage Licenses

  1. Matt January 3, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    She should step down. Period.

  2. Anonymous January 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Not issuing any licenses under these circumstances is still discriminatory. Even if it were not, the fact that she issued licenses to two opposite sex couples invalidated the whole thing. The Attorney General should see that she is removed from office.

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  4. Alvy January 5, 2014 at 4:33 am

    That's a good photo of her affectionate with the bovine creature.

    As a gay man, now I know that I deserve to be treated worse than a cow.

    Perhaps she would like to butcher me for a burger?

    Or is she so good that she's not only a bigot but also a vegetarian?!

    • Rainy January 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Baby Boy, you or I are not 'worse then a cow" ….I think ALL Life is important….AND ALL humans should and will have equality, Don't get discouraged…When I was younger, you could get arrested for kissing your date hello….and that was in NYC and it was only about 30 yrs ago….Hang in there…..

      • Alvy January 7, 2014 at 4:12 am

        Your name, Rainy, got me.
        I have a transgender friend named the same and always thought it unusual.
        If you're not s/he, you sound as good a friend.

  5. Michael January 5, 2014 at 8:47 am

    I find it so interesting that they always cite religion as their basis, yet I am sure they have issued licenses to divorced couples, etc.

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  7. Lincoln January 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Shes got "serious gayface", as they say over at Queerty.

  8. Pingback: Anti-gay NY Town Clerk Still Granting Marriage Licenses Exclusively to Opposite-Sex Couples | Blog

  9. John Mulholland January 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Please, step down, finally. Do the right thing.

  10. Pingback: The Morning Pride: January 6, 2014

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  13. Charles M. January 7, 2014 at 12:54 am

    I appreciate GCN's reporting on this. However, Mr. Osborne really leaves us hanging as to what happened with Ms. Carmichael and Ms. DiBiaggio, the couple who experienced discrimination at the hands of Belforti. Did they sue? If not, why not? And if they didn't purse legal action, why were they represented by counsel? It would be helpful and informative to publish an addendum explaining this aspect of the story.

    One other item which might have been included: Although Ms. Belforti does her best to portray herself as a humble woman who simply requested an accommodation as to this one clerical duty, she has in fact gone out of her way to inject herself into the political battle against marriage equality. She was used in TV ads that ran in 4 states voting on same sex marriage in 2012. And she appears in a NOM video series highlighting the "victims" of gay marriage. It is unclear what her involvement was with the campaign ads or whether Frank Schubert made fair use of existing footage of her. But the NOM video clearly was a project with which she actively participated. So she not only demands 100% pay for less than 100% performance of her duties, but via the NOM video, she sought to use her inability to perform her job as the basis of denying gay people equality in other states.

  14. ConservativesRock January 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Hang in there, Rose Marie! You have rights, too!!!

    • Alvy January 8, 2014 at 4:54 am

      Yeah!!!! The right to deny me my rights, right, ConservativesRock?!?!

  15. Paul_Brook January 15, 2014 at 6:15 am

    At the end of the day this lady is paid to do a job, and that job should come above her religious beliefs. If she is not happy for a job to overrule her religious beliefs, she needs to find a career that doesn't conflict with her person viewpoints.


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