Gay marriage, religion issues in NY clerk race

Longtime town clerk Rose Marie Belforti handles building permits, hunting licenses and government records for people in this farm-heavy Finger Lakes community.

Marriage licenses are a different story, because of her faith.

Shortly after New York became the sixth and largest state to sanction gay marriage this summer, Belforti told town board members her Christian beliefs preclude her from issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Her solution, to have her office issue all marriage licenses by appointment so a deputy can handle them, has irked some people. And one, Ed Easter, is challenging her as a write-in candidate, saying “what she is doing is wrong.”

Improbably, gay marriage and religion loom as issues in the Nov. 8 race for a part-time, $12,000-a-year clerk’s job in this town of gently sloping hills on Cayuga Lake. Voters are posed with the question: Where is the line between an elected official’s public duty and private beliefs?

“I want to do what the Bible tells me to do,” Belforti said, sitting in her small town hall office on a recent day.

“I realized that I can’t do this,” she said. “There are too many references in the Bible that say this is not right”…

Belforti was on a glide path to re-election when Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York lawmakers approved the same-sex marriage measure June 24. The bill was passed only with the last-minute support of four fence-sitting Republicans state Senators, and advocates on both sides of the issue are trying to influence their political fate in legislative elections next year.

But some of the first government officials affected by the new law are the municipal clerks who issue marriage licenses. Two clerks in rural upstate resigned rather than violate their religious beliefs by issuing marriage licenses to gay couples (Cuomo had warned that clerks don’t get to choose which laws to obey).

Gay marriage, religion issues in NY clerk race

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Pastor Joe Roof's picture

On top of this, Governor Cuomo, on October 18 said that it is "anti-New York" and "anti-American" to be against same-sex marriage.

I believe that New York State is in the greatest spiritual crisis of her history. What happens in New York does not stay in New York, big donors of the National Republican Party were behind the passage of same-sex marriage. They want it for the rest of the Country.

jimfrank's picture

New York is now a one-party state, even though two parties are sometimes on the ballot.

SNRote's picture

It's great to see someone stand up for their beliefs when it's the unpopular thing to do and could even cost her job! If I were Clerk Rose Marie Belforti, I'd be hiring the best New Jersey movers I could find and get the heck out of NY. I will guess this will not end in her favor but good for her for standing firm.