Monday, July 18, 2011

Religious Group Sticks Up for Town Clerks Who Refuse To Do Their Jobs

I have written a couple times over the past month about New York town clerks who are freaking about because they have to do their jobs.  These town clerks are terrified that they might someday have to sign off on a marriage license by some of their local gay or lesbian constituents.  One of the routine tasks of town clerks in New York state is to sign off on the marriage certificates in their communities.  In fact, it's an elected position that their community and these communities voted these men and women to their jobs with the expectation that they would actually do the job duties that they campaigned to do.

Some clerks initially publicly announced that they would refuse to serve some of their constituents before realizing that they can't perform a municipal function for only some of the public.  Others have resigned so that they will never find themselves in the position of having to actually doing their job and processing all local marriage licenses.  And many others are doing the job that they were elected to do.

Now the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund is meddling in New York's affairs by advocating for New York town clerks who want to keep their jobs even if they don't want to actually do their jobs:
The Alliance Defense Fund has issued (a) memo explaining the rights of clerks to refuse to issue licenses. Employers must make “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” In this instance, the memo says, “because New York law explicitly allows a municipality to delegate a clerk’s duties concerning marriage licenses to a deputy clerk or any other municipal employee, a city or town should have no reason to deny a clerk’s request for an accommodation.”

In Guilderland, Town Clerk Rosemary Centi has asked to recuse herself from duties as a marriage officer. In Broome County, Barker Town Clerk Laura Fotusky resigned because she did not want to recognize marriages for same-sex couples.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked last week about Fotusky’s decision, and presented a cut-and-dry assessment of the situation: ”The law is the law. You enforce the law as is, you don’t get to pick and choose those laws…If you can’t enforce the law, you shouldn’t be in that position.”
Of course, Town Clerks have never been terribly concerned about exercising their religious right to refuse to issue marriage licences in the past.  I have never heard of a Town Clerk or equivalent official in another state use their Catholic identity to decline the processing of marriage licenses to divorcees, for example.  It is just when gay or lesbian couples exercise our own civic rights in this society that people suddenly decide that their paid jobs violate their religious ethics.  Which seems awfully damned convenient, if you ask me.

Here's the skinny.  Town Clerks aren't there to bless marriage licences.  They are there to process them.  You don't have to like everyone who's paperwork you process.  You just need to process it and then move onto the next person's paperwork.  If you are a Town Clerk and you are not willing to do it, then stop wasting everyone's time and move onto another job.

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