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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York State

Governor Cuomo signs bill into law.
Two Central NY town clerks object.

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The acronym LGBT refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
and transsexual communities. SSM refers to same-sex marriage.

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This topic continues from a previous essay

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2011-JUN-24: Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law:

Governor Cuomo signed the bill at 11:15 or 11:55 PM (sources differ) on Friday, JUN-24, shortly after it was passed by the Senate. It will take effect on 2011-JUL-24. 1

Same-sex couples have been able to apply for a marriage application since 2011-JUL-05. Unfortunately the forms still have columns headed "bride" and "groom." They will be corrected shortly.

Clerks offices will be open in all five boroughs of New York City, and in Woodstock on JUL-24 even though it is a Sunday. This is in order to accommodate same-sex couples who are keen to get married on the very first day that the law comes into effect. Also, clerks offices will have extended hours during the previous week in order to handle an anticipated flood of applications for marriage licenses.

Mayor Bloomberg said:

"This is a historic moment for New York, a moment many couples have waited years and even decades to see — and we are not going to make them wait one day longer than they have to." 2

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said:

"So many of us have waited a lifetime for the day we could see full equality for all New York families, now that day is finally in sight. The City of New York will be the place to be on July 24th and we are proud to welcome all couples and their families to have a meaningful ceremony in the Clerk’s office, right here in the greatest city on earth." 2

Sen. Thomas Duane (D) said of New Yorkers: "We are leaders and we join other proud states that recognize our families and the battle will now go on in other states."

About 46% of the U.S. population now resides in a political jurisdiction where same-sex couples can have their relationship recognized by their state -- either by marrying, entering into a civil union, or registering as a domestic partnership.

A street party formed outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. This is the location of the famous Stonewall riot in 1969 which triggered the gay rights movement.

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2011-JUL: Town clerk resigns over SSM law:

The New York State marriage law allows religious and faith-based organizations to actively discriminate against loving, committed same-sex couples by not recognizing their marriages. However this exemption does not extend to state employees while performing their job. For them to refuse to carry out their responsibilities as clerks -- whether the refusal is related to a same-sex marriage or any other matter -- is considered official misconduct.

As of 2011-JUL-16, two town clerks and zero city clerks felt that the conflict between their religious beliefs and government duties required them to refuse to process paperwork relating to same-sex marriages. To place this in perspective, New York has 62 cities and 932 towns. Thus, the problem existed in only 0.2% of the administrative divisions in the state. In one of the two cases, an accommodation was reached so that no couple will be inconvenienced or rejected.

The clerks are:

  • Clerk Laura Fotusky, 56. a Republican, was twice elected as town clerk in Barker, NY. This is a town about 10 miles North of Binghamton in Central New York. She feels that she cannot be involved in the marriage of any same-sex couple. She composed a letter of resignation, effective on JUL-21, three days before the same-sex marriage law takes effect. She wrote:

"The Bible clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female as a divine gift that preserves families and cultures. Since I love and follow Him, I cannot put my signature on something that is against God. ..." 3

She also wrote:

"There was no protection provided in the legislation for Town Clerks who are unable to sign these marriage licenses due to personal religious convictions, even though our US Constitution supports freedom of religion." 4

Webmaster's note: Freedom of religion has historically meant the freedom to hold religious beliefs, to associate with others in religious organizations, to assemble together to attend religious services, to engage freely in religious practices, to freely change one's religion, etc. However, the term is increasingly being used to refer to the religious freedom to discriminate against others -- often women and sexual minorities. Among the latter it is most commonly used to victimize lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons (LGBTs).

Ms Fotusky told the Politico web site:

"I would be compromising my moral conscience by participating in licensing same-sex couples. I had to choose between my job and my God." 3

Governor Andrew Cuomo said on 2011-JUL-12 during an interview:

"The law is the law. When you enforce the laws of the state, you don't get to pick and choose which laws. You don't get to say, 'I like this law and I'll enforce this law', or 'I don't like this law and I won't enforce this law' -- you can't do that. So if you can't enforce the law, then you shouldn't be in that position."

He also said:

"I understand. We've had this debate. We've talked about it at length for many many years. We had a very heated discussion in Albany before the law was passed. I understand the opposition, and I understand both sides of the argument. And I understand the religious position of the argument. And I understand people who have religious beliefs and their opposition based on religious beliefs. I'm the governor of the state, and this is a legal matter. It's a legal question. To me, it's a question of equality and anti-discrimination. From a legal point of view, I believe this is exactly right and I'm comfortable with it, and that's why I supported it and I advocated.

"I understand people who say, I have religious beliefs and my religious beliefs trump my legal obligations. I understand that, and that's why the person is resigning. If you're saying you're going to act through your religious beliefs rather than what is the law of the state, then you can't operate in a position where you're supposed to be enforcing the laws, right? Because the laws would have to be paramount, and would have to be paramount to your religious beliefs. You can't have a system in this state where people enforce [only] the laws that their religions say are OK to enforce, right?" 4

  • Previously, Barbara MacEwen, a Republican, and town clerk in Volney NY -- 25 miles NNW of Syracuse in upper New York state -- said that she will refuse to sign marriage documents for same-sex couples. She said:

    "If there’s any possible way to not do it legally, then yes, I would not want to put my name on any of those certificates or papers. That’s their life, they can do it, but I don’t feel I should be forced into something that’s against my morals and my God."

She was able to arrange a compromise in which she is still allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples but will be able to pass any documents over to an assistant to sign.

Within four days of the article about MacEwen's stand having being published in the NY Daily News blog, there were 51 comments by readers. Some were quite lengthy and involved fascinating debate -- and as usual, no dialogue -- about the nature of homosexual orientation and the concept of civil rights. They are well worth reading. Four short diverse reader's postings on the article are:

  • "...Coumo panders to the votes and this year gay votes were in. ..."

  • "Is it really true that she issued licenses to divorcees when her god wasn't looking?"

  • "Since the Gov. is so all about equality I wonder what he is doing to end Affirminative Action? Any law giving favor due to race or sex is by definition of the EEOC discrimination."

  • "Can't do your job? Then find another. Or ask your church to support you. But don't clutter the hallways of state offices - where one is required to leave ones prejudices and personal beliefs at the door." 4

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2011-JUL-08: District Attorney issues letter to town clerks:

District Attorney for Nassau County, Kathleen M. Rice, issued a letter to the town and city clerks in the county. It emphasized the problems that would be created if a clerk violated the law by refusing to process a marriage license. The letter said in part:

"As you know, New York State’s passage of the Marriage Equality Act amends the Domestic Relations Law to provide for marriage between members of the same sex. I believe it is important that gay and lesbian couples know that they will be treated equally and with the dignity they deserve when applying for a marriage license in Nassau County.

Recently, a local clerk in upstate New York made headlines when she said she would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Marriage Equality Act provides that an application for a marriage license cannot be denied on the grounds that the applicant parties are of the same sex and the law affords no discretion to public officials charged with granting marriage licenses. Therefore, any such refusal may be subject to criminal prosecution.

The religious exemptions in the Marriage Equality Act are inapplicable to town and city clerks serving in their license-granting roles, and a public official’s intentional refusal to issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples may constitute Official Misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor defined in section 195.00 of the New York State Penal Law.

The New York State Department of Health will promulgate information to assist you with issuing same-sex marriage licenses before the Marriage Equality Act is effective on July 24, 2011. I am confident that public officials in Nassau County will comply with the law and my office is prepared to offer any assistance necessary to ensure that same-sex couples have access to marriage licenses without issue.

Thank you for your time and your dedication to the people of Nassau County. 5

"Michael" has created the Roman Catholic blog "Public Vigil." It is dedicated to exposing the occult, transhumanism and mind control in the media. He expressed concern about the possibility of a people being charged with Official Misconduct. He wrote:

"... in order to appease a small minority of people that are cohabiting and not even necessarily in a monogamous relationship, the State of New York is throwing the full weight of its police powers against any citizen that objects on the grounds of religious freedom to this newly invented civil "right". Is the State really going to incarcerate people who take a stand for their religious beliefs –- the very same religious beliefs upon which our country was founded?

Christian Americans have been tolerant. We have been accepting. But we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied into denying our Christian beliefs with regards to the fundamental institution of marriage.

This isn't funny anymore. I hope that all Christians in New York will do whatever they can to support those State workers who object to issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples on the basis of their religious beliefs. Certainly there are many solutions to this problem other than fines, imprisonment or firings. Which just goes to show how 'tolerant' the supporters of the homosexual agenda are when the shoe is on the other foot.

Is this democracy in action, or are we witnessing a Machiavellian State apparatus coming into being?"

"Michael" may have misunderstood the concept of official misconduct by a state employee:

  • Blaming a "small minority of people" for cohabiting when they have been prevented from marrying in New York seems a strange criticism.

  • Cohabiting couples -- both opposite-sex and same-sex -- are not necessarily monogamous. If one is concerned about promiscuity, the the best bet is to promote marriage access for all loving, committed couples.

  • Section 195.00 of the New York State Penal Law does not apply to every citizen; it only applies to state employees who have taken an oath to follow state law without discriminating.

  • The definition of marriage has changed three times in the history of the U.S. The first was at the conclusion of the Civil War when African Americans were allowed to marry. The second was in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage across the country to include interracial couples. Same-sex marriages are the third time that marriage has been redefined -- this time to allow same-sex marriage. Each involved a conflict with "the very same religious beliefs upon which our country was founded." At least in the first two redefinitions, the new definitions became part of the American cultural scene to which few now object.

  • It is not supporters of "the homosexual agenda" who enforce the Penal Code. That is the Attorney General's task. If that office refuses to prosecute a violation of the Penal Law, they might be criticized as having committed an Official Misconduct themselves.

  • There is no "Machiavellian State apparatus" involved. To our knowledge, every government requires its civil servants to implement laws as written without allowing their personal desire to discriminate intrude on their duties.

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Discussion on this topic continues with positive and negative reactions to the Marriage Equality Act.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Gay Marriage Bill Passes In New York; Governor Cuomo Signs Same Sex Marriage Bill Into Law," Huffington Post, 2011-JUN-25, at:
  2. Victoria Cavaliere, "NYC offices to open on a Sunday for gay marriage," MSNBC, 2011-JUL-07, at:
  3. Reid Epstein, "N.Y. clerk quits over gay marriage," Politico, 2011-JUL-12, at:
  4. Celest Katz, "Gov. Cuomo On Clerk Quitting Over Gay Marriage Licenses: Obey The Law, Or Take A Hike," NY Daily News blog, 2011-JUL-12, at:
  5. Letter re: marriage licenses for same-sex couples," Office of the District Attorney, Nassau County, 2011-JUL-08, at: This is a PDF file.
  6. "Michael," "Cuomo tells us why he should be excommunicated,"

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-JUL-16
Latest update: 2011-JUL-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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