Lesbian Couple from Miami Sue New York Clerk for Delegating Same-Sex License


The New York Times tells the story of an upstate New York clerk involved in a "test case" lawsuit filed by two lesbian women who flew in from Miami for a marriage license and are now saying that the clerk's choice to delegate that task to someone else in the office is unacceptable:

Rose Marie Belforti is a 57-year-old cheese maker, the elected town clerk in this sprawling Finger Lakes farming community and a self-described Bible-believing Christian. She believes that God has condemned homosexuality as a sin, so she does not want to sign same-sex marriage licenses; instead, she has arranged for a deputy to issue all marriage licenses by appointment.

But when a lesbian couple who own a farm near here showed up at the town hall last month, the women said they were unwilling to wait.

Now Ms. Belforti is at the heart of an emerging test case, as national advocacy groups look to Ledyard for an answer to how the state balances a religious freedom claim by a local official against a civil rights claim by a same-sex couple.

... Ms. Belforti is one of several town clerks who have said the state’s Marriage Equality Act, the measure approved in June that legalized same-sex marriage in New York, violates their religious beliefs. Two clerks resigned in July rather than comply with the law.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, who made same-sex marriage a priority of his first year in office, has expressed little sympathy for clerks who object to the law. “When you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get to pick and choose,” he said this summer. And the State Health Department issued a memorandum to clerks that refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples would be a misdemeanor.