Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti won’t be signing marriage licenses any time soon as the town figures out how to accommodate the clerk’s religious beliefs while also abiding by the state’s new same-sex marriage law.

Belforti, who wrote a letter to the Ledyard town council in August saying she could not sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs, has agreed to not sign any marriage licenses until a permanent resolution is reached, Ledyard town councilman Jim Frisch said Wednesday.

In her letter, Belforti cited a state law that says an employer must accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs. Her letter came a few weeks after the Marriage Equality Act, which allows same-sex marriage in New York, went into effect.

“What we’ve done is this: The clerk, until this matter is resolved, is not doing any marriage licenses,” Frisch said. “At least, that’s what she has agreed to. In the interim, appointed deputy clerks will attend to all marriage licenses, but these deputy clerks are not there at all times.”

Frisch said in order for a couple to obtain a marriage license, if a deputy clerk isn’t at the town office, they must schedule an appointment. He conceded that it may be inconvenient for some couples, but was informed by Belforti that people typically call ahead to make arrangements to come in and obtain a marriage license.

One couple encountered the practice this week.

Katie Carmichael and her partner, who live in Florida but spend their summers in Union Springs, went to the Ledyard town office this week hoping to obtain a marriage license. Carmichael said they were told by Belforti that they would have to make an appointment to come back.

Carmichael said she was angry because the town “is allowing (Belforti) to circumvent the law.” She said that she has contacted the National Center for Lesbian Rights and other gay rights groups notifying them of her experience.

“It is blatant discrimination,” Carmichael said.

Frisch said he hopes there is a permanent resolution sooner rather than later, but acknowledged that the town does not issue many marriage licenses. In any given year, Frisch said, the town may issue three or four marriage licenses or up to seven per year.

There is a legal question, Frisch said, of how the town should handle this to comply with the new Marriage Equality Act while also abiding by the law Belforti cited in her letter. He said the town has consulted with its attorney, Adam Van Buskirk, and Van Buskirk has communicated with the town.

Van Buskirk declined comment and referred questions to Ledyard Town Supervisor Mark Jordan. Jordan was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

It is possible the subject will be on the agenda at the next Ledyard town board meeting scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12, and Frisch said it is unlikely that the board will hold a special meeting before then to address the issue.

“This has to be resolved in a more permanent fashion,” Frisch said. “What or when that resolution will occur, I have no idea, but it’s not something we are going to put on the back burner.”

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

(20) comments

FormerCayugian

She cited a law saying that she could refuse to do her job based on her religion? Well, I'm a Pastafrarian and we don't believe in working on Mondays and Fridays. Gonna accommodate me?

Rose needs to find a new job.

Oa
Oa

If she's only doing part of her job, a pay cut is in order, no?

Auburn Oldman

How can this blatant discrimination be allowed? Shouldn't she be ordered to perform her duties as town clerk UNTIL it can be looked into further and not the other way around? I hope that couple sues that pants off the town, the clerk, and her supervisor for allowing this to happen. Homophobic bigots.

news reader

when the law is abruptly changed a worker needs time to look for a new job. it sounds like a good compromise that is in place for now. don't be offended, it is not necessary. What are the NY rules for residency??? Hmmm.

guitardude62

Ms. Belforti: Again,are you pressing ALL of your religious beliefs/views,your particular church and sects laws,etc,on EVERYONE who walks in your office seeking all services?Because if you're not,then you can't claim to be following your religion then.What are your religions views on couples living together "in sin" before they get married?How about couples that are of different religions getting married, or even race? What if they raised their children not to follow either religion?Let's say I'm coming to you for a building permit and I want to build a room in my house where I plan on worshipping some false idols, eat a big steak on Fridays, especially during Lent, and oh yeah,and it's a guest room too, and I'm gonna let my unmarried brother and his significant other who by the way have kids out of wedlock stay there and I don't care what what goes on.Are you going to question me on the usage of my new room? Then what? Are you going to deny my permit based on your religious "beliefs"?

guitardude62

cont'd-No Ms Belforti,you won't deny me my permit,nor would you ever ask those questions,to me,or anyone else.That's because you aren't concerned about those "religious" implications,you just want to pretend you're using a religious standpoint,when in fact,it's your personal view that same-sex marriages shouldn't be legal.You can have all the personal views in the world about every subject in the world,but you can't discriminate against people seeking legal services offered by your employer based on those personal views and opinions, and that's what you are doing. Personally, I have no stake in same-sex marriage per say, it neither offends me nor affects me. My status in society, family, insurance rates, taxes, paycheck, opportunities, road conditions, etc, none of those are affected by people seeking same-sex marriage.I do believe in equality, treating each other decently, doing my best to obey the law, and that whole "do unto others" karmic thing. You Ms. Belforti, obviously do not.

guitardude62

[quote]FormerCayugian said: "She cited a law saying that she could refuse to do her job based on her religion? Well, I'm a Pastafrarian and we don't believe in working on Mondays and Fridays. Gonna accommodate me?Rose needs to find a new job."[/quote] I'm not sure, but, I believe I may also be a "Pastafrarian", either by birthright, or just plain old exercising my new found religious beliefs. Where do I sign up, and what kind of benefits package do they offer,lol? Wait until I inform my employer, he's gonna love this! If laws can change while the Town Clerk is employed, then I can change my religion while I'm employed and demand to be recognized.

fran

She should have gone to Springport instead of Ledyard for her marriage license. The clerk there is not a hateful bigot.

fran

[quote]Oa said: " If she's only doing part of her job, a pay cut is in order, no?"[/quote]

Definitely - a pay cut is in order....

onewhoknows

if she claimed her religon was muslim none of you would be spouting off, so who is the bigot

chestnutridgerd

Guitardude-What are you saying? "Road conditions and my paycheck are not effected by same sex mariages"????? My friend, The Senator, says benefits and paychecks ARE! Especially if you work for the state of NY!

Tom
Tom

This is really simple.
Ms. Belforti took an oath to faithfully discharge the duties of her office. The oath DID NOT include the words "If those duties do not conflict with my personal beliefs".
She is breaking her oath and can not remain in her office.

If she does not do the right thing and resign, the town board should remove her from office with cause.

Tom
Tom

[quote]onewhoknows said: "if she claimed her religon was muslim none of you would be spouting off [/quote]

They likely wouldn't have to because her "Christian" supporters would have run her out of town immediately and be calling for an investigation of terrorist links.
For "onewhoknows", you really don't know much.
I'd have to say the bigot here is the one looking back at you from the mirror.

movedsouth
movedsouth

[quote]Tom said: "They likely wouldn't have to because her "Christian" supporters would have run her out of town immediately and be calling for an investigation of terrorist links.For "onewhoknows", you really don't know much.I'd have to say the bigot here is the one looking back at you from the mirror."[/quote]

I don't know if I would call onewhoknows a bigot for that statement, just that he probably speaks reality. It's just not PC to speak against the Muslims.

Farmer's Gal
Farmer's Gal

[quote]movedsouth said: "It's just not PC to speak against the Muslims. "[/quote]

It may not be PC, but it is done all the time by hypocrites who would fly off the handle if you criticized Christians. I also do not hold to those who criticize Christians hypocritically while defending other faiths. It's a factor here and the point is that it should not be.

The job duties are the job duties. If a person elected to do them won't/can't do them, that person need to step down or be removed. An adjustment which makes it possible for a person to perform her duties AND practice her faith is one thing; but not an "adjustment" which "justifies" a person refusing to perform her duties. So, if a person needs 10 minutes at noon to say prayers (or whatever) & allowing that prayer break makes it possible for the person to do her duties, fine. But there's no justification for flat out refusing to do your sworn duties as an elected official.

movedsouth
movedsouth

[quote]Farmer's Gal said: "It may not be PC, but it is done all the time by hypocritesThe job duties are the job duties. An adjustment which makes it possible for a person to perform her duties AND practice her faith is one thing; but not an "adjustment" which "justifies" a person refusing to perform her duties. So, if a person needs 10 minutes at noon to say prayers (or whatever) & allowing that prayer break makes it possible for the person to do her duties, fine. But there's no justification for flat out refusing to do your sworn duties as an elected official."[/quote]

I agree about the person doing the job they were hired for 100%. But I disagree with time out to pray or smoke, unless they were terms of employment.

AnaGrarian

Does this mean that a Catholic clerk could refuse to sign a license for someone who has been divorced?

Farmer's Gal
Farmer's Gal

[quote]movedsouth said: "I agree about the person doing the job they were hired for 100%. But I disagree with time out to pray or smoke, unless they were terms of employment. "[/quote]

That's the law these groups are pressing into service to supposedly justify not signing same-sex marriage licenses. It was meant to allow a person to have some adjustment with respect to religion -- like a moment for prayer, or wearing a headwrap or a beard or some such, but it is NOT meant to be a blanket protection against actually DOING the job.

Farmer's Gal
Farmer's Gal

[quote]AnaGrarian said: "Does this mean that a Catholic clerk could refuse to sign a license for someone who has been divorced?"[/quote]

That would follow logically if it is OK to refuse to sign same-sex licenses because your religion is against it. Such a (mis)interpretation of the law is going to open a huge and problematic can of worms.

genegirl65
genegirl65

When schools were integrated, were white teachers allowed to appoint deputy teachers to teach black children or did they teach all the children or just resign?

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