Though New York state's passage of marriage equality for same-sex couples has been hailed across the country and around the world, there's at least one person who is in a decidedly non-celebratory mood: Barbara MacEwen, town clerk of the rural upstate Volney, NY.
MacEwen has said that she will refuse to sign the marriage licenses of same-sex couples' wedding licenses, Politico reported. The town clerk's signature is required, but MacEwen said she's morally opposed to same-sex couples marrying.
“If there’s any possible way to not do it legally, then yes, I would not want to put my name on any of those certificates or papers,” MacEwen she told Politico. “That’s their life, they can do it, but I don’t feel I should be forced into something that’s against my morals and my God.”
U.S. Census data shows Volney holding steady with a 100 percent white population of around 6,000 since 2000, solidly middle class. Only about 16 percent of the town holds a Bachelor's degree or higher.
MacEwen, a 75-year-old Republican, said she doesn't think any same-sex couples will apply for a marriage license in Volney.
“I don’t know of anybody like that in my town,” she said. “I’m sure that there might be, but I haven’t heard about anybody.”
MacEwen is up for reelection this fall to her fifth four-year term. She told New York's YNN television news affiliate that if she had to choose between signing a marriage license for a same-sex couple and losing her job, she would sign.
Since same-sex marriage is now legal, a refusal to sign could be considered illegal discrimination, much like a case a central New York, a limo driver is facing after he refused a reservation for a gay couple's wedding.
"It's not my right to say, 'Oh, are you gay? Or homosexual?' I don't believe it's fair for me to say that. But when he asked me, I felt I had the right to say what I believed and that is that I'm not going to compromise my beliefs for money," Eric Lewis, the owner of A-1 Limousine Company, told YNN. He is now looking into his legal options.
In Huntington, New York and elsewhere in the state, however, clerks' offices are preparing for the influx of new wedding applications they expect July 24, when the new law takes effect.
“We are training our staff to be prepared for a very large number of people on the first day,” Michael McSweeney, the New York City clerk, who oversees the marriage bureau told the New York Times. “We are going to be part of history.”