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Lesbian couple sues anti-gay NY town clerk for refusing to sign marriage license

By Kase Wickman
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 16:18 EDT
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Two women who wanted to get married in a small town in a rural New York town are suing the town clerk who refused to sign their marriage certificate because she believes homosexuality is a sin.

The lawsuit will stand as a milestone test case in the wake of New York’s months-old legalization of same-sex marriage: whether government workers’ personal beliefs can trump the duties of their jobs.

Rose Marie Belforti, the elected town clerk for Ledyard, NY, refused last month to sign the marriage license for Deirdre DiBiaggio and Katie Carmichael, who are from Miami, according to the New York Times. Belforti had previously arranged for a deputy to issue licenses for same-sex couples so that she didn’t have to notarize a marriage she did not believe in, but DiBiaggio and Carmichael didn’t want to wait for an appointment with the deputy. Belforti refused to sign their license.

Belforti will be represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona Christian-based legal organization that supports her argument that New York state law can’t make her compromise her religious beliefs.

DiBiaggio and Carmichael will be represented by Washington liberal advocacy group People for the American Way, arguing that clerks like Belforti must sign the licenses in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Similar circumstances have cropped up around New York since the law was passed: one upstate clerk said she would not sign the licenses, and another quit her job to avoid the situation.

“Gay people have fought so long and hard to get these civil rights,” Carmichael told the New York Times. “To have her basically telling us to get in the back of the line is just not acceptable.”

Belforti, however, said that “this is not about trashing gay people.” She insisted it was about religion.

“For me to participate in the same-sex marriage application process I don’t feel is right,” she said. “God doesn’t want me to do this, so I can’t do what God doesn’t want me to do, just like I can’t steal, or any of the other things that God doesn’t want me to do.”

Belforti, a Republican, is up for reelection in November. The town, population approximately 1,900, is split roughly half and half between democrats and Republicans. Belforti said that if the town citizens want to vote her out, that’s their prerogative.

“I’m totally at peace, because God comes first for me,” she said. “It’s not a question at all. If they want to get me out, you know, I’ve shown them what I can do for 10 years — if that’s not good enough and people want somebody else, that is their choice.”

Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman
Kase Wickman is a reporter for Raw Story. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and grew up in Eugene, OR. Her work has been featured in The Boston Globe, Village Voice Media, The Christian Science Monitor, The Houston Chronicle and on NPR, among others. She lives in New York City and tweets from @kasewickman.
 
 
 
 
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