What More Do They Want?

Here’s a story about a 57-year old woman, Rose Marie Belforti, who’d been the town clerk of Ledyard, NY for the past ten years.  In addition to having her office open only nine hours a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, she cleans the town hall bathrooms, is a married farmer with four grown daughters, who makes probiotic kefir cheese.  She also happens to be a Christian who believes that God has condemned homosexuality as a sin.  That’s where the trouble begins….

As you probably know, this past summer, New York allowed homosexuals to marry and Mrs. Belforti wanted no part of her name on the marriage licenses.  So, she came up with a brilliant idea.  She delegated the responsibility to another deputy clerk to issue all marriage licenses by appointment.

Well, that wasn’t good enough for a lesbian couple from Florida who owned property nearby who showed up in August and wanted a marriage license.  They were unwilling to wait for an appointment.  Remember, that this clerk’s office is only open nine hours a week so, I’m guessing, everyone has to make an appointment.

So now Mrs. Belforti finds herself in the middle of a “test case” which is supposed to answer how the state balances a religious freedom claim by a local official against a civil rights claim by a same-sex couple.

Mrs. Belforti says that New York law protects her right to hold both her job and her beliefs.  I have no idea if that’s true.  My reading of the EEOC, for example, relating to religious beliefs, doesn’t apply to elected officials.  If her constituents have a problem with her, they could vote her out of office.  But, they didn’t.  Mrs. Belforti was up for re-election in November and was re-elected – 305 votes to her opponent’s 186.

The article I read in the NY Times said the lesbians are represented by a liberal organization, People for the American Way, and Mrs. Belforti is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund.  I’m not sure if an actual lawsuit is pending because the NY Times article is so poorly written.

But when I read it, I said to myself, “what more do these people want?”  First of all, they could’ve gone to any other clerk’s office if they had to get married immediately – I have no idea why the marriage was so urgent in August when the law went into effect in July.  My guess is they wanted to make a big deal of Mrs. Belforti’s religious beliefs.

What was amazing, but not surprising, was to read about this story and the resultant comments on the Huffington Post.  The level of hatred towards Mrs. Belforti was so outrageous I had to wonder why are the people who write comments on the Huffington Post so angry?  Mrs. Belforti was called just about every name in the book simply because she had strong religious beliefs.

Then I wondered if an elected official somewhere, opposed to the death penalty, refused to pull the lever to the electric chair but delegated that duty to another person, would be the target of the same vitriolic attacks from the left.  Would that person be called a religious zealot?  Somehow I doubt it.

As a matter of fact, when Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber recently granted death row inmate Gary Haugen a reprieve from the death penalty because the governor was morally opposed to capital punishment and would not allow any executions during his term, I didn’t read one comment on the Huffington Post that called him a religious zealot or any of the other vile names spewed at Mrs. Belforti.  Instead, he was commended for standing up for his convictions!

As far as I’m concerned, Mrs. Belforti made a reasonable plan to accommodate all people who wanted to marry in her small town.  No one was inconvenienced.  No one suffered any damages.  No one’s civil rights were violated.

I don’t get it and, apparently, her constituents don’t get it either – since they re-elected her.

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
Author website: http://www.idontgetit.us
  • DOOM161

    The left loves to invent discrimination. Since she developed the same policy for all marriage licenses, there isn’t any discrimination in this case. But you won’t hear that from the homosexual community.

    • David

      Most states qiruere you to get a license in the county where the wedding will take place. Which is why my fiance and I have to make a special trip up to my home state just to get a license. Its only good for 30-60 days too. Check with the state and county websites for their rules.I personally don’t understand this. I think you should be qiruered to get it in the state where you live. That is where the marriage will be recognized. Why should it matter where you say your vows??

  • Teddi

    After reading the comments from the prior readers, there are valid points on both sides. I agree that public officials should carry out the duties of their jobs, and if what they are being asked to do goes against personal convictions, they may want to reconsider the position. I have left jobs in the past where I was asked to do something I could not ethically agree with. On the other hand, I think the big issue is that she vocalized her objection to issuing these new licenses, and hence, new processes were put in place (i.e., appointments, delegation to other staff). If she had simply put in place an appointment system and did not connect it a moral issue, probably no one would have said anything. It seems her voicing her objection to the new law is what is at the heart of the matter, as no ones’ rights have been violated with the new procedures. The long and short of it is that some people did not like what she said.

  • karvictho

    What more do they want? They want government employees whose salary is paid with tax money collected from citizens to follow the rule of law. I think that’s what they want. And what a government employee does in their spare time is besides the point. The clerk in the story is also free to get another job if she cannot do this one.

  • Iklwa

    I always find it interesting how obvious communist/socialist/subversive groups entitle their organizations things like “People for the American Way” when in reality they are all about the destruction of our very social fabric.

    George Orwell’s “New Speak” is alive and well in the lexicon of the American Left.

    You are right in your supposition that this is not really about a marriage license but all about dragging the official’s Christianity into the street and kicking her faith bloody in the hopes enough media coverage would force New York into action they deemed correct.

    The answer to your question of why Huffington commentators are so angry lies in the fact they see government as the seat of omniscient power and this woman’s faith in Christ is an affront to their cherished ideology. How dare she?

    In America, we are all equals. It’s just that if you are minority, queer or female (no offence intended) you are a little more equal than all the others.

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  • Dave N

    @cmacrider — this probably should go without saying, but no … there is nothing in the US Constitution that gives citizens the blanket right to follow their conscience when doing so results in a violation of the law. No political system could be built on such a premise, unless the goal were total anarchy. The US Constitution does “guarantee” rights to things like freedom of religion, equal/fair treatment of all citizens by the state, and generally the “Blessings of Liberty.” The legal system also recognizes, however, that sometimes the rights of one group will conflict with the rights of another, and in such cases laws are designed to establish the boundaries defining areas of the law where the rights of one group prevails. Typically, in cases where religious-freedom rights of some clash with civil rights of others, religious-freedom rights have priority when it comes to religious practices of churches, organizations that are inherently private, and charities that accept no funds from the state. Civil rights prevail when dealing with private businesses that provide goods to the general public, charities that accept public funds, and government agencies.

    All that said, I’ve checked the NY State laws involved, and I don’t see anything to suggest that Ms. Belforti violated any of them. There is nothing that prohibits a clerk from requiring an appointment be made, or from delegating responsibilities to a deputy. There is a requirement under the new law that procedures for marriage licenses be identical for straight and gay couples, so had she continued to process licenses for straight couples, while requiring gay couples to make appointments with the deputy, that would have been a violation of the law. But since she has delegated responsibility for ALL licenses to the deputy, she is not in violation of that aspect of the law, either. I suspect that the lesbian couple involved is aware of this, which would be why, nearly four months later, no law suit has been brought against Belforti. I rather doubt one will be filed, and so am a bit unclear as to why this article is being posted in the absence of any new developments.

    • Ron F

      The procedures were not identical. Prior to a gay couple applying for the license, the Clerk issued the licenses without an appointment. She refused to issue the license to the gay couple and then started requiring an appointment. Thoreau’s civil disobedience was to not submit to the Government. The Clerk is part of the Government. In addition, Thoreau was willing to pay the price for his civil disobedience. He spent a night in jail for failing to pay taxes. If Mrs. Belfori was consistent with Thoreau’s civil disobedience she would have quit her job.

      • Dave N

        I don’t know where you got your information from, but the revised procedure, requiring all couples (regardless of orientation) to make appointments with the deputy, was something she came up with and reviewed with the Town Supervisor following the passage of the NY Marriage Equality Act in June, but prior to this particular couple coming in during August. I think they even reviewed it with the NY State Association of Towns prior to their visit. It was even reported in the news prior to the couple visiting … you could probably go back and find news articles about it from July. So there’s little doubt that the new policy — which does treat straights and gays identically — was already in force at the time the couple came in.

    • Manish

      Yes you have been cgauht.I got away with it 22 years ago but state connected computers were just starting to be used then and they lost my records.You won’t be so lucky.

  • cmacrider

    Ms. Salazar:
    Intriguing story with your usual excellent analysis. I’m Canadian and therefore my understanding of the American constitutional documents is limited so feel free to correct me. However, it seems to me that one of the implicit assumptions underlying the whole American Constitutional framework was the idea that each citizen is sovereign and one of their inherent rights is the right to follow their own conscience even when that decision of conscience is at variance with the laws of the State. If memory serves me correctly that was Thoreau’s point in his article on civil disobedience. It strikes me that that is precisely what this lady did when she chose to not personally issue the license but at the same time made arrangements for this gay couple to get their marriage license. I really don’t recall Thoreau stating that the right of civil disobedience was restricted solely to the liberal left … but then I could be in error since its years since I read Thoreau’s treatise on the subject.

  • Ron F

    I don’t think the left has a monopoloy on anger. During the Proposition 8 and in most elections there is a lot of anger on both sides. An article that I read said Mrs. Belforti refused to issue the license and the town asked a deputy clerk to issue the license. I may be against gay marriage but if it is the law of the State of New York that gay marriage is legal and it is the Clerk’s job to issue licenses, I do not think the Clerk can decide to whom she will issue licenses. The Clerk’s job is a ministerial job. If the person meets the requirements for the marriage license, the Clerk’s job is to issue it. As a conservative, I want public officials to carry out their duties. If the Clerk does not believe in inter racial marriages on religious grounds, would it be acceptable for the Clerk to refuse to issue a license to an inter racial couple?

    • Ken Hansen

      The Lesbian couple, just like any other couple is entitled to their marriage license in a timely manner, they are not enitled to dictate who will issue the license or when the license would be issued. They were not denied their marriage license, they were DELAYED. The clerk should have either delegated the issuance of ALL marriage certificates to someone else, or made everyone make an appointment, but the appointment requirement would still treat some couples differently, since their appointments might be delayed.

      Why did Mrs. Belforti have to issue the license? Do any married couples remember who issued their marriage license?

      • Ron F

        She should issue the license because it was her job. It was a ministerial act. Was the couple entitled to have a marriage license issued to them under the law? If they were, she should have issued it. By performing a ministerial act, she was not persnonally endorsing gay marriages, the State of New York was. If she is unable to perform part of the job because of her beliefs, she should not have run again for the position. I may not be in favor of gay marriages but they are legal in New York. The fact that she will not issue any marriage licenses does not mean she is not discriminating against gay couples who are entitled to the marriage license. She only stopped personally issuing marriage licenses so she would not have to issue them to gay couples.

    • Wally M

      Are you also saying that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber must put the death row inmate to death rather that allowing the execution to wait until the governor’s term is over? If so I agree with you. Also, the office of Mrs. Belforti was not open every day so an appointment was necessary plus her office was not the only option available. The couple could have gone to another town clerk. This was a put up job by the liberals and until they treat all laws equally they can eat cake.

      • Ron F

        The Governor’s position is not a ministerial position. The Clerk’s position is. Nevertheless, I would agree that if it was time for the execution, the honest, and honorable, thing for the Governor to do would be either to commute the sentence, which is probably in the Governor’s authority to do or go through with the execution. The dishonorable thing to do would be to delay it for another Governor to make the choice. I understand that making appointments could be required but apparently it was not before the gay couple applied for the license. Therefore they were treated differently than all prior heterosexual couples.

    • Utam

      Yeah yeah yeah. But she gives me the iierpssmon she will be good at researching those hidden gems about companies!Personally I’m just happy I can sign my name these days. When I manually have to write a check my hand cramps up and I turn lame. In the future, handwriting will be an art all into itself. Children will be fascinated that people used their hands to write.

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  • Gena Taylor

    Another good article, Ms Salazar. I don’t get it either, why anyone who doesn’t tow the line with the far left is attacked if they try to live up to their religious beliefs. The far left would really prefer that religious observation be outlawed, at the least, outside of one’s home or church or temple, definately outlawed in any public job or office. Of course, they stick to battling Christianity and Jewish beliefs, while allowing Muslims to do whatever they wish, probably cause they know most Christians and/or Jewish people won’t kill them if they bash their religion while Muslims will go after them. Like most bullies, they are too cowardly to go after those who might get mad and actually hurt them. Maybe if Christians and Jews decided to kick ass on people who go after their faith like the Muslims do, people would start having second thoughts about attacking Christianity and the Jewish faith. But we seem to turn the other cheek, which the far left bullies then slap as they did the cheek before.