Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti won re-election Tuesday, but that doesn’t end the attention involving her refusal to sign same-sex marriage licenses.
After votes were counted and Belforti was the victor, she said in a phone interview that she believes her position will continue to be scrutinized.
“I feel great that people were able to support me even though I wanted to do something different and challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s law,” she said. “I still think I’m in the right to do that. I think the law covers that, but it may get challenged down the road.”
Katie Carmichael and Dierdre DiBiaggio, the couple that attempted to obtain a marriage license from Belforti in August but were told that they would have to make an appointment to meet with a deputy clerk, are still considering legal action.
“Our lawyers are weighing all the options at this point but nothing has been filed yet,” Carmichael said in an email last week.
Carmichael said she was disappointed with Tuesday’s election results. Belforti defeated write-in candidate Ed Easter by 119 votes.
“ I was surprised twice since we started this. The first time was when we walked into a government building and we were turned away by a woman who was legally responsible for fulfilling her job. And now by the attorney general’s office that did not step in to enforce the law,” she said.
As for any complaints received by the state Attorney General’s office or how the office would approach a case such as this one, a spokeswoman declined comment because the attorney general’s office does not comment on potential or ongoing investigations.
Belforti informed the Ledyard town board in a letter that she did not want to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The letter came in August, weeks after the state’s Marriage Equality Act went into effect allowing same-sex couples to marry.
Since revealing her position, Belforti has delegated the marriage license duties to a deputy clerk. Couples need to make an appointment with the deputy clerk in order to obtain their marriage license.
Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said Friday if a lawsuit is filed against Belforti, she will have support.
“We do have people we work with like the Alliance Defense Fund that are more than willing to represent (Belforti) and even the municipality at no cost,” he said. “ADF and Liberty Counsel tend to get involved in these matters. We don’t want there to be any cost to the town of Ledyard or the town clerk.”
The Courage Fund was created by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms to help clerks who oppose the state’s marriage law. McGuire said the Courage Fund doesn’t exist to provide clerks with legal advice, but does help them by connecting clerks to groups like ADF and assists with media requests.
“We’re just helping to carry the story and helping protect the clerks’ religious freedom rights,” McGuire said.
In other news:
• U.S. Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill, and Richard Hanna, R-Barnveld, issued statements Friday in recognition of Veterans Day.
Buerkle, a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, praised and thanked veterans for their service.
“On Veterans Day we honor veterans of all American conflicts for their sacrifice in the defense of our freedoms. It is a day for honoring those heroes who made it home,” Buerkle said. “As we go about the business of living in America, let’s work to make sure that veterans are a valued part of our society on all levels. We honor them for their service; they honor us with the opportunity to serve them.
“Thank you to all of our veterans for all you have given for us. You are the best of America, and we — your family, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens are grateful for your service.”
Hanna thanked veterans for their “commitment and strength to preserving the ideals of this nation.”
“As a nation we should feel pride (on Veterans Day). Pride in knowing our sons and daughters have celebrated in victory and at times suffered in great tragedy all in the name of safety and freedom for the United States of America. From the shores of Normandy to the beaches of Iwo Jima; the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan; in times of war and periods of peace Americans have served admirably in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard,” Hanna said.
“We are grateful for your service, proud of your tradition and humbled by the heroism you’ve displayed. Freedom, justice and liberty are not free. We pay a great deal for our liberties and the debt is owed to our men and women in the Armed Services.”
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