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.