Despite the recent passage of the Marriage Equality Act, which allows same-sex marriage in New York, a town clerk in Cayuga County recently declined to issue a marriage license to a lesbian couple from Miami who have a home in the area. According to a report in the Syracuse Post-Standard
, the couple is considering legal action.
When Katie Carmichael and Deirdre DiBiaggio attempted to obtain a marriage license last month in the town of Ledyard, Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti declined their request, instead instructing the couple to make an appointment with her deputy clerk and return another day.
Belforti has made her position clear in the past, having informed the Ledyard town board that she would not issue same-sex marriage licenses because of her religious beliefs, though she eventually agreed to allow her deputy clerk to issue them in her stead.
Town Attorney Adam VanBuskirk said the town board did not try to force Belforti to change her position, explaining the board cannot “command her or remove her from office.”
However, Carmichael and DiBiaggio have notified the board that they are considering legal action if Belforti continues to refuse them a marriage license.
“I think she is hiding behind her religion so she doesn’t have to do her job ,” said DiBiaggio, herself a lawyer. “I mean how far does this go? Does she refuse to issue a license to somebody who’s been divorced or maybe someone who’s had premarital sex?”
In nearby Auburn, City Clerk Debby McCormick, who recently issued a marriage license to a gay couple, believes Belforti has an obligation to abide by the new legislation.
“We took an oath to uphold the state constitution,” she said. “We’re supposed to treat everyone the same, it’s part of our job.”
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