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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New York State

The day comes: same-sex couples get married.
Another town clerk violates her oath of office.

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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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  • happy face The Christian Post reports:
    "... a host of same-sex couples ... will soon exchange wedding vows following an evening performance of the hit show 'Hair.' ... wedding ceremonies will be held on July 25 and among the first in New York will be on Broadway."

    " 'It’s not just a summer of love,' Rory O’Malley, a star of 'The Book of Mormon' and a co-founder of the gay-rights group Broadway Impact, said at a press conference Wednesday in front of the St. James Theater. 'It’s a summer of equality'."

    "Other Broadway celebrities attended the press conference this week including Joel Grey from 'Anything Goes,' the cast of 'Hair,' and Will Swenson from 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the Musical'."

    Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn Theatres and the owner of St. James, said he was proud to be able to host some of the first same-sex weddings in New York state. He said there was a natural connection between the theater and weddings."

    " 'The theater is the place where we come together to celebrate and affirm who we are as a people,' Roth told reporters. 'It is the place where we stand in front of our community on a stage and we speak our truths. That’s what theater is and that's what a wedding is'." 1

  • happy face2011-JUL-24: NY: Hundreds of same-sex couples lined up in various clerk's offices in New York City. They were able to obtain marriage licenses and -- if they had a judicial waiver or had been previously married elsewhere -- they could obtain a civil marriage on the same day. Others had to wait a day. The state set up a raffle system to handle the large number of couples who wanted to get married on the very first day possible. The first same-sex couple to marry in Long Island, NY was Francisco Fuertes and Patrick Simeone who had been together for 23 years. The first same-sex couple to be married in Manhattan City Clerk's Office were Phyllis Siegel, 77, and Connie Kopetov, 85. Kitty Lambert, 54, and Cheryle Rudd, 53, from Buffalo, NY, were married at Niagara Falls' State Park's Luna Island, near the US-Canadian border. 2

  • happy face City hall sign about marriage 2011-JUL-25: The Unitarian Church of Canandaigua in New York posted signs outside the local city hall, making it abundantly clear that their church would be pleased to solemnize same-sex marriages. For years, the marriage law in New York state had limited the religious freedom of congregations affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. They would have liked to be able to marry same-sex couples, but were not permitted to until now. 3 The Church posted the following notice on their web site:
    "Celebrating Equal Marriage:

    Having worked for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights for years, we are thrilled that NYS now recognizes equal marriage.  Our ministers are available and proud to officiate and sign licenses for gay and lesbian couples.  You do not have to be a member of our congregation to receive our clergy's services.  

    For more information contact Rev. Scott Tayler at 585-709-9120 /" 4

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Another town clerk violates her oath of office for personal religious reasons:

Republican Rose Marie Belforti, 57 of Ledyard, NY became the third town clerk in New York State to refuse to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. This is In addition to other town clerks mentioned earlier.

All three had previously sworn an oath of office to uphold state law and the state constitution, but felt that their loyalty to God and their interpretation of the Bible required them to refuse to obey their oath in this one area. Shortly after SSM licenses became available in the state, Ms. Belforti informed town council that her Christian beliefs precluded her from issuing licenses to same-sex couples. She arranged with a deputy clerk to issue all marriage licenses in her place -- to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The workload is not excessive; the office issues only about 7 marriage licenses a year.

On 2011-AUG-30, a lesbian couple who are residents of Florida, but who have a farm in the area, asked to purchase a license. Following her arrangement with the deputy, she tried to set up an appointment so that the couple could return later and obtain the license. The couple refused. One of the women, Katie Carmichael, said she felt as though:

"... the wind had gone out of my sails. We know we could go down the street and get another license. The problem is if we did that, then wouldn't that just be passing the buck? At some point, isn't another person going to have to go through this? We have to stand up."

The People for the American Way Foundation (PFAW) has asked the town board to force the clerk to either "perform her essential duties" or resign. PFAW has threatened to sue on behalf of the two women. 11 Ms. Belforti would be represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a fundamentalist Christian legal defense agency.

Republican Ed Easter, 40 is challenging her as a write-in candidate. He said that

"What she is doing is wrong. ... It's not about attacking her beliefs. It's about her beliefs are not letting her do her job. ... It's not about attacking her beliefs. It's about her beliefs ... not letting her do her job.""

When interviewed by the Associated Press, she said:

"I want to do what the Bible tells me to do. I realized that I can't do this. There are too many references in the Bible that say this is not right."

The Associated Press article generated some interesting comments. Grammar and punctuation were corrected:

  • Chuck Anziulewicz said:

    " 'Where is the line is between an official's public duty and private beliefs?'

    An official's private beliefs pertain to his or her own private life. If a clerk has religious objections to marriage equality for Gay couples, my advice is simple: DON'T marry someone of the same sex, and politely decline any invitations to Gay weddings that you receive. But you do NOT have the right to deny service to someone who is acting in accordance with the law!

    The state of Virginia used to have a law called the 'Racial Integrity Act of 1924' which kept people of different races from marrying. People were told, 'You have every right to marry, as long as you marry someone of your own race.' In 1967 that law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the fact that people used all sort of religious arguments to argue FOR it.

    Today most Gay couples are told, 'You have every right to marry, as long as you marry someone of the opposite sex.' I'm convinced that the Supreme Court will ultimately rule that this is as unjustifiable as Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws."

  • Alec Rider responded:

    "That law [in Virginia] had nothing to do with what's happening now. And sir, if you think religious reasoning was being used effectively for that case then you're wrong. She has every right to refuse, they can ask someone else to do it. This law just got passed, Lets accommodate their needs. The Establishment [Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] on has been on the books since 1789, I don't see you accommodating that SIR."

  • Norman Dostal replied: [Warning; name calling is included in the following quote]

    "I had to reply to Alec's extreme ignorance. The law against interracial marriage is exactly the same as what is being discussed now, ignoramus. Preventing adults from marrying due to religious beliefs. SAME arguments against blacks are now being used against gays. Religious bigots like yourself stated that blacks were sinners. They had the 'mark of Cain' and that, per the Tower of Babel, God separated the races so they must not mix. For gays, people are saying that God says homosexuality is an abomination -- even though the Bible was written and rewritten and edited by man throughout the years! A person paid with tax payer money MUST not discriminate. This woman will be rightly removed. She doesn't have any right to discriminate. If you follow that line of thinking, you are saying that she can refuse to marry Jews because, per Christianity, Jews will burn in hell if they don't accept Jesus. Where does your bigotry draw the line sir?"

  • Chris Vogel wrote:

    "Why is it that taxpayer-paid public officials imagine that their private religious beliefs can decide which citizens they will serve, and which not? She assumes that her beliefs are more important the the laws of New York. Where does that stop? Will she refuse to issue licence's to couples of whom one has divorced, or faiths she doesn't like, or a mixed-race couple, or what? Or, is it that she is just out to get same-sex couples. She would be better off working in a religious institution where they favor these things."

  • Alex Rider responded:

    "So you're calling this woman racist? What planet are you from? And let me tell you something, if the 'law' had been put up to referendum it would've lost. She has a right to the Establishment of Religion. The Bible says to perform Civil Disobedience against any worldly laws that conflict with the Word of God. Are you going to complain about Ghandi or [Martin Luther] King Jr. now? Yeah, I didn't think so." 5

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Reactions by New York state senators are listed in the next essay

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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. R. Leigh Coleman, "NY Gay Marriage Law Spurs Broadway Events for Same-Sex Couples," The Christian Post, 2011-JUL-16, at:
  2. Basil Katz and Neale Gulley, "New York begins marrying same-sex couples," IOL News, 2011-JUL-24, at:
  3. "Editorial: In New York, the personal has become political," Fairport-East Rochester Post, 2011-JUL-28, at:
  4. "Welcome," Unitarian Church of Canandaigua," at:
  5. CitizenLink, "Legal Action Threatened Against Town Unless They Force Clerk to Issue SSM Licenses," National Organization for Marriage, 2011-SEP-15, at:
  6. Chuck Anziuiewecz, "Gay mariage, religion issues in NY clerk race," Wall street Journal, 2011-OCT-25, at:

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Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-JUN-22
Latest update: 2011-OCT-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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