Residents blast gay marriage stance at Ledyard town board meeting

2011-09-13T03:05:00Z 2011-09-13T08:44:30Z Residents blast gay marriage stance at Ledyard town board meetingRobert Harding / The Citizen Auburn Citizen
September 13, 2011 3:05 am  • 

LEDYARD — Residents used a free-flowing public forum during Monday's Ledyard town board meeting to share their views on town clerk Rose Marie Belforti's refusal to sign same-sex marriage licenses.

Belforti, who has been asked by Ledyard town supervisor Mark Jordan and deputy supervisor Jim Frisch not to sign gay or straight marriage licenses, was on hand recording the minutes of the meeting as most of the speakers in the audience of about 20 residents spoke out against her position on gay marriage licenses.

One resident, Arthur Bellinzoni, asked to be placed on the meeting's agenda and spoke for more than five minutes. During his remarks, Bellinzoni criticized the town for the decision, which now means anyone seeking a marriage license must make an appointment and return to the office when a deputy clerk is available.

Bellinzoni went to the Ledyard town offices in August with Katherine Carmichael and Deidre DiBiaggio. The women were hoping to obtain a marriage license. Belforti, according to Bellinzoni, told them that she was “ordered by the town board not to issue marriage licenses.”

“Apparently, the town board has set up an illegal scheme for the sole purpose of protecting the town clerk from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but there are no minutes of town board meetings beyond the February 2011 meeting posted on the website, so I don't really know exactly what transpired at the August meeting or subsequently behind closed doors,” Bellinzoni said in his remarks.

Frisch was quick to defend the town board, saying that the town clerk is “not an employee” of the town, but rather an employee of the people since she is an elected official.

“She does not take her marching orders from the town board,” he said. “That is not within our power.”

Belforti did have an opportunity to speak. She shared the total annual amount the town paid for the services of deputy clerks since 2005 and the highest amount paid out was $200 in 2010, according to Belforti.

“Most towns this size have a deputy (clerk) in the budget. They have a line item for the salary of a deputy. I do not. I do all the work myself and I rarely hire a deputy,” she said.

Belforti said very little about her reasons for her refusal to sign same-sex marriage licenses. She wrote a letter to the town board in August and cited her religious beliefs as the reason why she could not sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

One resident asked Belforti why she has taken this position and Belforti responded, “it's a religious decision.”

The town did not take any action on the issue Monday evening, but may face a lawsuit as a result of the current situation with the clerk's office. According to a letter obtained by The Citizen from Proskauer Rose LLP, a New York City law firm, Carmichael and DiBiaggio may file a lawsuit against the town.

In the letter, the law firm called on the town to direct Belforti to “perform her essential duties” which includes issuing marriage licenses, or resign.

When a resident said that the town's taxpayer dollars will be used to defend the town against a lawsuit, Jordan disagreed.

“I don't see the Town of Ledyard spending any money on a lawsuit,” he said. “The clerk runs her own office. We cannot force her. We're trying to help out the people in the Town of Ledyard so they can still be able to get marriage licenses.”

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding

Copyright 2015 Auburn Citizen. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. Tom
    Report Abuse
    Tom - September 19, 2011 10:17 am
    lakeside said: "town has to pay for any lawsuit and payout judged against them -must have an insurance policy that pays for it or the rich taxpayers in the town will -money will have to come from some where "

    The "Insurance Policy" is called Property Tax and that's where it will come from.
    I wonder what the Town will do if the gay community decides to make an example of them and descend by the thousands from across the State to get marriage licenses and all file suit if they are turned away.
    This nonsense needs to be nipped in the bud as it will be used by other bigots as a precedence if it's not.
  2. lakeside
    Report Abuse
    lakeside - September 18, 2011 8:05 am
    town has to pay for any lawsuit and payout judged against them -must have an insurance policy that pays for it or the rich taxpayers in the town will -money will have to come from some where
  3. liberal karl
    Report Abuse
    liberal karl - September 15, 2011 5:54 pm
    davidt said: "This article has a very MIS-leading title which actually suggests the very opposite of the story, and goes so far as to make a political statement that is largely unrelated to the issue altogether. "

    WHAT?!?!

    WHERE?
  4. davidt
    Report Abuse
    davidt - September 15, 2011 4:46 pm
    This article has a very MIS-leading title which actually suggests the very opposite of the story, and goes so far as to make a political statement that is largely unrelated to the issue altogether.
  5. Tom
    Report Abuse
    Tom - September 14, 2011 12:52 pm
    The Town of Ledyard Board is trying to skirt their responsibilities.
    They do indeed have the power to remove her from office for failing to do her sworn duties and appoint an interim clerk. They are choosing not to.
    Mr Jordan also seems woefully misinformed about who is going to have the expense of a lawsuit. Ms. Belforti is an officer of the town (she cannot be personally sued under NY law) and as such the town is responsible for any judgements and costs incurred from lawsuits.
    Her actions are being done in an official capacity, and by refusing to remove her, the board is setting themselves up for additional legal action.
  6. liberal karl
    Report Abuse
    liberal karl - September 13, 2011 2:45 pm
    Farmer's Gal said: "To be fair, Karl, it's not the Town of Ledyard. I have friends & former neighbors who are themselves homosexual, and others who support the rights of same-sex couples to marry, who live there."FG, point taken, and to be honest, I meant "town of Ledyard" in a sort-of Executive sense.

    "Representing the Town of Ledyard..." Obviously, there are people in power down there who lack either the spine or fidelity to the Law or the knowledge of what it means to hold public office and the duties and responsibilities which that entails, and THEY are not doing their job!

    The "Town of Ledyard" should have thrown Ms Bigotry out of office. She doesn't deserve to serve the public when she feels that discrimination figures into the mix.

    Sadly, this is what some Evangelicals think their religion entitles them to. We should get serious as a nation about prosecuting them FULLY.

  7. OldDaveNJ
    Report Abuse
    OldDaveNJ - September 13, 2011 12:19 pm
    It seems like the comment by Mr. Jordan that the township would not have to spend money in response to any lawsuits against the township was awfully wishful thinking. The fact that one elected member of a town government doesn't really report to any other doesn't make the town itself immune from the financial costs. If the citizens of the town don't want that to happen, they'd be wise to get a recall election going ASAP - failure to perform essential duties is typically sufficient to get one started. Hopefully Ms. Belforti will just resign, before this blows up further.
  8. Farmer's Gal
    Report Abuse
    Farmer's Gal - September 13, 2011 10:45 am
    Basically, it's this gal herself, with a handful of friends and supporters, some of whom support her because she's a friend, not because of the issue, one way or the other -- who is insisting she has the right to not do her job duties. It's not the whole Town of Ledyard, not by a long shot.
  9. Farmer's Gal
    Report Abuse
    Farmer's Gal - September 13, 2011 10:44 am
    To be fair, Karl, it's not the Town of Ledyard. I have friends & former neighbors who are themselves homosexual, and others who support the rights of same-sex couples to marry, who live there. There were plenty of people at the meeting last night who spoke out against the situation. Town Board members responded that they did not hire this clerk (some previous Town Clerks have been hired), but rather, she was elected. As such, they don't feel they have the authority to fire her. That means the public has to "fire" her by voting her out of office. She really should have stepped down.

    I support her right to her opinion, and to choose her own religion, but that does not give her a right to not do her job. The provisions for "adjustments," as I've mentioned before, were for small, reasonable accomodations for people's various faith, but were never intended as an excuse for not carrying out the duties of the job. She needs to step down before she subjects this small town to a lawsuit.

  10. Yellow Dog
    Report Abuse
    Yellow Dog - September 13, 2011 9:53 am
    Any Ledyard residents ready to picket at the Town Offices?
  11. liberal karl
    Report Abuse
    liberal karl - September 13, 2011 9:12 am
    Good for the enlightened, intelligent citizens who went to speak out against this bigotry and worse--anarchy--existing in the town of Ledyard!

    The town of Ledyard seems to think that its running its own little theocracy down there. Not to put too fine a point on it, but all New Yorkers should be utterly OUTRAGED at this display of arrogant anarchy.

    I hope the town gets its bigoted butt sued off, and that the bill is sent to the ones who have set themselves up as above the Law! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Featured Businesses

Marketplace

Deals, Offers and Events