Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Cuomo Has Wrought Let No Town Clerk Put Asunder


Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti at work

Deirdre DiBiaggio, who owns a Finger Lakes working farm, decided she wanted to get married to her lover of ten years, a filmmaker. So, she went to the Town Clerk’s office in nearby Ledyard, New York, to apply for a marriage license.

The Town Clerk, Rose Marie Belforti, declined. You see, Ms. DiBiaggio and her partner, Katie Carmichael are gay. Yet as of July 24, 2011, they were legally allowed to wed in New York State. Ms. Belforti, who has worked as Town Clerk for ten years, told the couple that they should make an appointment and return later when a deputy could issue the marriage license. If the couple had been heterosexual, would they have been told to wait? Was Belforti shirking her duties as Town Clerk?

The issue has divided Ledyard: a religious freedom claim by a local official against a civil rights claim by a same-sex couple. Belforti believes that the state’s Marriage Equality Act, the measure that approved New York’s same-sex marriage, violates her religious beliefs. She cites a passage from the Bible’s first chapter of Romans which, she interprets, condemns homosexuality as her underlying cause célèbre. To Belforti, state law protects her right to hold both her job and her beliefs.

But DiBiaggio and Carmichael believe that the law requires all clerks in New York to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Governor Cuomo is not sympathetic with Belforti and told a New York Times reporter, “when you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get to pick and choose.” The State Health Department issued a memorandum to clerks (two clerks resigned rather than comply with the law) that it is a misdemeanor to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

How do you stand on this issue? Should Rose Marie Belforti be reelected in November? Does the right to religious freedom give a person liberty over the law? If DiBiaggio and Carmichael are issued an apology and marriage license immediately, do those legal actions eclipse Belforti’s religious beliefs? Please post your beliefs here.