Gov. Andrew Cuomo is directing the state Division of Human Rights to investigate why a same-sex couple was denied a marriage license in Montgomery County.
The couple, Thomas Hurd and Dylan Toften, attempted to obtain a marriage license from the clerk in the town of Root, according to The Daily Gazette in Schenectady. But the clerk, Laurel Eriksen, refused to issue the license.
The town's attorney said Eriksen's refusal was based on her religious beliefs and the couple's failure to schedule an appointment. The town's deputy clerk is willing to grant the marriage license.
Cuomo called the clerk's action "an unconscionable act of discrimination."
"Personally I cannot believe that this could happen anywhere in this country, let alone in the state of New York," he said. "Marriage equality is the law of the land, and it has been in New York since we were the first big state to pass marriage equality in 2011."
But it's not the first time a town clerk in New York has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Rose Marie Belforti, who served as the town clerk in Ledyard, Cayuga County, cited her religious beliefs as the reason why she would refuse to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. She announced her stance in August 2011, nearly two months after the state's Marriage Equality Act was signed by Cuomo.
The law prohibits marriage license applications from being denied "on the ground that the parties are of the same, or a different, sex."
Tish James, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, called the clerk's refusal to issue a marriage license "not just wrong, it's illegal."
"As attorney general, I will use the law as a shield to protect New Yorkers' rights — and ensure LGBTQ couples are given the respect and humanity they deserve," James said in a statement. "Love is love. I'd like to congratulate this couple on their marriage."
Toften told The Daily Gazette that he and his fiance went to the town of Cobleskill and obtained their marriage license. But Cuomo still plans to direct an investigation into the incident.
The governor also offered his services for the wedding ceremony.
"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I would like to congratulate Dylan Toften and his future husband on their marriage," Cuomo said. "I invite them to come to Albany, and I would be happy to offer my services as an officiant at their wedding."