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Anti-Gay NY Town Clerk: Marriages with Animals Next?

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Aug 23, 2011

A New York town clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the state's new law providing family parity says that people marrying animals might be one consequence of the new law.

The clerk, Rose Marie Belforti, told Citizen Link in an Aug. 19 posting that she will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because "God is the final word," and says that she will turn to a legal group that promotes Biblical law if her superiors refuse to allow her to delegate the job of issuing the licenses to same-sex couples.

Belforti also told Citizen Link that she has been receiving "very slanderous" messages for her refusal to serve gay and lesbian families.

"I am a Christian. God is the final word. He is the Truth, and I believe what the Bible says," Belforti told Citizen Link, which is affiliated with the anti-gay group Focus on the Family.

"It is the law now," Belforti acknowledged, "and I do want to obey the law because God wants me to do that, but personally for me to administer this application to a couple of the same sex would be very difficult.

"And I don't think it'd do the couple any service to have me as their person, because it really, truly, does grieve the Holy Spirit that resides in my heart, and I don't know if I'd be able to cover that up for them," the clerk continued. "So, I want to remove myself from this process."

Belforti is not the first clerk to come out against the new law, which does not make any provisions for public employees who feel they cannot serve all members of the public equally due to their faith traditions.

Earlier this year, Barbara MacEwen, the town clerk for Volney, NY, said that she did not want to have to sign her name to legal documents that allowed same-sex families to wed.

"I'm not objecting to having it done here in the office, but I'm objecting to being forced to sign my name to something that is against my morals and my God," MacEwen told the press. "I don't want to have to leave my position, and I still feel strongly about not wanting to sign, but I'm not sure if there's another way around it," added MacEwen.

Such signs that government employees might refuse to do their jobs prompted one county's DA to send out a strongly worded message last month.

"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," the letter, sent by Kathleen M. Rice, the DA of Nassau County, read. "Therefore, any such refusal may be subject to criminal prosecution."

Faced with the choice of either abiding by professional standards and doing the job for which she was paid, or adhering to the stipulations of an anti-gay faith tradition, Laura Fortusky, a town clerk in the tiny New York town of Barker, reportedly chose to resign -- an arguably laudable decision, given that it resolved the question of professionalism while preserving the individual's conscience.

But anti-gay groups have held up her resignation as proof that legal equality for same-sex families is damaging to religious freedoms, even when a marriage equality bill is as carefully crafted to respect anti-gay religious traditions as the one passed by New York lawmakers.

Fortusky said that she had been in contact with anti-gay leaders prior to her resignation, and indicated that she thought laws meant to protect minorities and ensure legal equality for all were inferior to laws she believed God had issued against gays and lesbians.

"I believe that there is a higher law than the law of the land. It is the law of God in the Bible," Fortusky wrote in her letter of resignation. "In Acts 5:29, it states, 'We ought to obey God rather than men.' "

The letter, which was posted at the website of anti-gay group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, noted that Fortusky had "been in contact with Jason McGuire from New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms," as well as with "our Town Attorney, Richard Lewis, and a Constitutional Lawyer regarding the Marriage Equality Act that was passed June 24, 2011." What counsel Fortusky might have received from McGuire or others was not specified in the letter.

However, the resignation letter followed the argument used by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms as though scripted.

"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," Fortusky wrote.

Text at the anti-gay group's site read similarly.

"For licensed Christian counselors, not directly affiliated with a church, a day may come when the state may refuse licensure to those who practice reparative or ex-gay therapy," the site's text read.

"Wedding photographers and caterers will similarly find no protection. Refuse to photograph or serve a gay nuptial and people with strong convictions concerning the authentic definition of marriage will find themselves vulnerable to a lawsuit," suggested the text.

"Soon town clerks and justices will also be required to issue gay 'marriage' licenses."

The site's text followed the anti-gay convention of putting the word marriage in quotation marks when applied to same-sex couples, even though under law, at the state level at least, marriages entered into by gay and lesbian families as of July 24 will be legally on par with those of heterosexual couples, meaning that they will be legally binding and not theoretical.

The resignation letter also incorporated a number of other familiar talking points from anti-gay groups.

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

LGBTQ Nation, reporting on Belforti on Aug. 21, remarked upon the fact that Belforti spoke to an anti-gay group's affiliate, but refused to speak to the mainstream press.

"Though she claims in her Citizen Link interview that 'if (reporters) want to talk to me over the phone, I would love to do that,' it must be remembered that this is the same woman who, when contacted by the New York paper the Auburn Citizen for comment on her decision, stated 'that's not your business' before rudely hanging up the phone," the LGBT Nation article said.

"Thus, everything that she says must be taken with a grain of salt; for if you only want to be interviewed by a 'friendly' organization, it seems as though you don't want to answer the hard questions," the article continued.

LGBTQ Nation also wondered about Belforti's faith-based refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, although she seemed not to have any such reservations when it came to mixed-faith couples or people seeking to re-marry after a divorce. The article concluded that "her refusal actually has roots in prejudice against gay and lesbian people -- couched in religious beliefs."

The clerk also denounced the language on the new forms, which no longer specify "bride" and "groom" but ask for the name of each "Bride / Groom / Spouse."

Belforti told Citizen Link that she thought "another agenda" might be at work "than just allowing same-sex couples to be married. We know what a bride is, we know what a groom is -- but if we choose to be a 'spouse,' does that even limit (marriage) to a human being? Do you know what I'm saying?"

Belforti also said that if she needed to, she would seek assistance from the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group that describes itself as "defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and direct litigation."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • , 2011-08-23 08:14:30

    Then resign your public job and go work for your devil BIGOT bitch.

  • , 2011-08-23 09:52:01

    Fire the cunt

  • puck, 2011-08-23 10:28:26

    If your religion keeps from doing your job, then get a better job and work for your church. I am sure the pay is not all that good. I think today I will refuse service to christians cuz my new religion says I can. Blah!!!

  • , 2011-08-23 11:14:30

    It’s so amazing to me how these Christians seem to think theirs is the only religion on the world. Fire her, sue her, and make her life the living hell she seeks to do to all the gay couples.

  • , 2011-08-23 11:15:37

    If she is unable to do ALL of her duties then fire her.

  • , 2011-08-23 12:53:17

    She’s a "public" oficial who can’t or won’t do her job then she has officially "quit." Good riddance!

  • CC, 2011-08-23 13:40:51

    It is amazing how many bigots hide their hatred behind a bible. Public servants need to take an oath to uphold the laws of their state when they are hired. If I said that I was a Wili Nili and my God, Wili and Godess, Nili said I could not issue marriage lic to hetros , do you think I’d be fired?

  • That Long Beach guy, 2011-08-23 18:49:18

    She isn’t working for god, she’s working for the public. Gay people are considered public. And we, as tax payers, help to pay her salary. I’m so very sick of the bigotry and small mindedness of these religious types. Fire her if she can not carry out her duties as a town clerk.

  • That Long Beach guy, 2011-08-23 18:55:18

    It is mind boggling how, once again, people use god to justify their innate bigotry. And who says that ANYONE would want to marry their pet? Good grief. It’s my experience that cats and dogs just lay around sleeping all day. Who the hell wants a spouse like that?!!!!!

  • JPtheROBOT, 2011-08-23 19:34:24

    Well, if it was a PRIVATE company, I’d feel for her. The article mentions wedding photography; and it’s likely true that now in NYC a wedding photographer who refuses to work a gay wedding could be sued. That is absolutely NOT acceptable in my view. BUT, this woman is a government employee. She doesn’t have the luxury of refusing business to any citizen, she is obligated to serve. If she does not feel she can perform her job in good conscience now, she should simply resign. If she wont do that, but refuses to issue even a single license, she should be fired.

  • nick, 2011-08-23 20:42:20

    Damn, if that bitch doesn’t want to do her job, there’ll be a line of people in this economy willing to do it for her. Maybe she could try applying for a church job so that the holy spirit in her heart remains happy.

  • , 2011-08-23 22:22:07

    Two thoughts... If she is sooooooo Christian then surely she has read Matthew 22:21 "Render unto Caesar the things that are, Caesar’s and to God things that are God’s". And Romans 13:1. If the OT I where she derives her authority. "Let every person be in subjugation to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God."

  • MK-111, 2011-08-24 08:48:32

    Interesting how in the article it said she had no problems signing for an interfaith couple. or a person that was once divorced. Has she ever objected to an aethist couple? Sounds like she is hiding behind the bible to shield her prejudice.

  • , 2011-08-24 16:49:59

    These religious morons don’t realize the bible was not written by God. They are going to be so surprised when they wake up in Hell. So if a gay doctor in an ER decides not to treat an accident victim because they are Christian how would they like that? Oh I forgot, they’d make an allowance for that since it would be something THEY needed. Hell is going to be chock full of these people.

  • , 2011-08-24 17:20:15

    Where in history does it state that god created marriage

  • ElDancairo, 2011-08-24 18:30:53

    This is not job duties interfering with religion. This is religion interfering with the job duties. If your doctrine conflicts with your job, you have the right to quit. You do NOT have the right to force your job to consider your doctrine. Jewish and Seventh-day Adventist keep the Sabbath day holy from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. However, it is nearly impossible for one of either of those beliefs to get a job working in the restaurant service industry. Almost all restaurants require their employees to work Friday and/or Saturday. Jews and SDAs do not have the right to force the employer to change it’s policy. They do have the right to look for a job where such conflict does not exist. Anti-gays saying this New York law infringes on religious freedom is misleading - and some who know better are simply lying. It mandates that public employees can not use religion as an excuse to discriminate unfairly against same sex couples.

  • fernsky, 2011-08-25 10:10:41

    quote But anti-gay groups have held up her resignation as proof that legal equality for same-sex families is damaging to religious freedoms, even when a marriage equality bill is as carefully crafted to respect anti-gay religious traditions as the one passed by New York lawmakers. unquote. If I understand this right freedom of religion is the right to impose your religious beliefs on one and everyone regardless of the law? These religious purists should never work for something as impure and fickle as a worldly administration, the should work for God the reward is higher even if the pay ain’t that great.

  • , 2011-08-28 14:20:28

    Well she should get fired! On top of that she needs to move our of New York and live in the Bible , hippocrates. States in stead of living in New York! Simple as that.

  • John Guthrie, 2011-09-28 19:58:34

    Apparently this hypocrite only reads the parts of the Bible that reinforce her bigotry. If she read the whole thing, she would discover that the Bible also says that you should stone your children to death if they misbehave. It also says that you shouldn’t eat pork products. At the least I bet she loves her bacon and probably pork chops. Also, according to the Bible, she should be home obeying her husband, taking care of the house and kids. If she’s such a good "Christian", why is she working in the first place? Seems to me that "Christian" beliefs are just an excuse to justify her definitely Un-Christian attitude.

  • fernsky, 2011-09-30 18:45:20

    Let me defend her a little: She’s an old fart, like me, she’s on her way out anyway and when you lived your life in an anti-gay environment it’s not easy to get out of it, even if you are or think you are/could be gay. I think she was not smart enough and kept listening to the same idiots plus the fact that it is harder for a woman to ascertain herself.

  • John Guthrie, 2011-09-30 19:31:09

    OK fernsky. You are showing what "an old fart" you are. There is ABSOLUTELY no defense for not doing your job. If she worked for a private company, she would be fired on the spot!!! It is rather apparent that she is "not smart" enough to think for herself and has to listen to some charleton y the way, I hardly think that you meant "ascertain" herself. Ascertain means "verifying" or "determining." I think maybe you meant "asserting" herself. Do you think?

  • John Guthrie, 2011-09-30 19:45:23

    I just learned that she was interviewed by Citizens Link which is associated with Focus On The Family, one of those charlatan organizations I just mentioned, who are constantly saying "send money." Just like Oral Roberts who once said send me money or God said He would take me away. I couldn’t think of

  • John Guthrie, 2011-09-30 19:55:28

    TO FINISH: a better reason NOT to send money. What would you expect her to say? As in my original comment, it is obvious she only reads the parts of the Bible that reinforce her bigotry. The Bible says you should stone your children to death if they misbehave. I seriously wonder if she would do that!!! Also, it says you shouldn’t eat pork products or shell fish. That means every time she eats bacon, ham, porkchops, shrimp, lobster or crab meat she is just reinforcing her hypocracy!!! What say you now, fernsky?

  • fernsky, 2011-09-30 22:27:19

    Yeah what I say now! I was surprised with such a quick reaction and enjoyed it - thank you - I just re-read the article after posting my latest comment and in view of this I shouldn’t have tried to be a bit of the devil’s advocate I wanted to be here. Yes you are right it is asserting oneself I meant. Now what you quote the bible about stoning children etcetera, these are all pre-bible laws and the easiest to find out about it is to study the Romans -600 BC-, Livy, Polybius, they’re helpful. As an old fart I’ll let you know I was born May 2nd 1948 on this day Hitler died and so did Ossama son of Laden. My reason for writing stem from two things 1 was the unanimous put down for which I agree, the 2nd one was a woman I met in a bar she was and it was obvious Muslim but she wore no veil or rag or whatever and she drank beer as I did and we got along so she told me that in her community she was regarded as a Godless whore that even her close relatives rejected her but what hurts most is the rejection by my countrymen because she’s a foreigner so she was "asserting" herself. What else if in Belgium there is such a thing as gay marriage it is because the lawmakers made it possible and I’m not sure a vote would have made it possible, same for the Netherlands, same for abortion. Which makes me say the people sheeple cannot be trusted for their good jugement in any given country. to end with a smile, I’m sure many of the auhtors of the scriptures would have sued had they known the way their writing has been used and mis-used unfortunately America wasn’t around at the time...

  • John Guthrie, 2011-10-01 05:51:24

    The Bible quotes I mentioned about pork & shell fish are taken directly from Leviticus, the exact same book that these so-called Christians use to justify their hatred of gays. And yes, it is hatred!!! When you deny someone 1,138 Federal rights and some 300 to 400 state rights that that everyone else gets for merely saying "I do", that is unqualified HATRED!! And they really can’t call themselves Christians because they do not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Christ preached love, not hatred. They are following the Old Testament and totally ignoring the new testament. FACT: Jesus NEVER said one word about homosexuality. How can they say that they’re Christian, when they are not paying any attention to what Jesus said or didn’t say?

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