Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wedding Bell Blues

First it was pharmacists who wouldn’t fill prescriptions for medicines that made the Baby Jesus cry; now it’s town clerks in New York who won’t sign marriage licenses for same sex couples because of (ick).

Rose Marie Belforti is a 57-year-old cheese maker, the elected town clerk in this sprawling Finger Lakes farming community and a self-described Bible-believing Christian. She believes that God has condemned homosexuality as a sin, so she does not want to sign same-sex marriage licenses; instead, she has arranged for a deputy to issue all marriage licenses by appointment.

But when a lesbian couple who own a farm near here showed up at the town hall last month, the women said they were unwilling to wait.

Now Ms. Belforti is at the heart of an emerging test case, as national advocacy groups look to Ledyard for an answer to how the state balances a religious freedom claim by a local official against a civil rights claim by a same-sex couple.

Ms. Belforti, represented by a Christian legal advocacy group based in Arizona, the Alliance Defense Fund, is arguing that state law requires New York to accommodate her religious beliefs.

“New York law protects my right to hold both my job and my beliefs,” she said in an interview last week, pausing briefly to collect $50 from a resident planning to take 20 loads of refuse to the town dump. “I’m not supposed to have to leave my beliefs at the door at my government job.”

Actually, yes, you are supposed to leave your beliefs at the door at your government job. It’s part of the job to do the things the laws of the state require, and you don’t get to pick and choose them to suit your faith and practice, especially if it is to deny legal services to people.

So either quit your job or do it according to the law you were elected to uphold.