Monday, August 15, 2011

Another Elected Town Clerk Refuses to Notarize Same-Sex Marriage Licences

I've written a few times about Town Clerks, elected officials in the state of New York, who are refusing to do their job and process the marriage licenses of gay and lesbian couples.  A couple clerks have resigned and others have assigned the task to minions.  Meanwhile the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund is sending out memos and offering free legal assistance on behalf of Town Clerks who get in trouble for failing to perform their elected job duties.

Late last week, we learned that a new town clerk has announced her intention to refuse to do her job, choosing instead to delegate her responsibilities to a deputy clerk:
Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti submitted a letter to the Ledyard Town Board saying that her religious beliefs prevented her from signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and the board discussed Belforti’s letter at Monday’s meeting, according to John Binns, a member of the town board.

When reached for comment Thursday, Belforti said “that’s not your business” before hanging up the phone.

Binns confirmed that Belforti submitted the letter, which he said included a request to the board for Belforti to assign a deputy clerk so the deputy clerk could sign same-sex marriage licenses. Binns said Belforti cited a law which, according to Binns, she said allows her to request a deputy clerk to sign same-sex marriage licenses. Binns said he had mixed feelings on Belforti’s request. While he said he believes that it is the clerk’s job to sign marriage licenses, he added that if the law Belforti cited “is something that stands up,” he will “support whatever the laws are.”
Frankly, I'm shocked that it's not the public's business to find out why one of its employees refuses to perform one of her elected job functions.

I was reading about this story over on the Box Turtle Bulletin website.  He does a great job of describing what New York town clerks do when they are presented with new marriage license application:
I think it’s important to keep in mind exactly what Rose Marie’s role is in the licensing procedure. Rose Marie doesn’t conduct the marriage. She doesn’t bless the marriage. She doesn’t attend the marriage. She doesn’t offer approval of the marriage. She doesn’t validate the information on the marriage license. She doesn’t even confirm that the marriage took place.

Rose Marie looks at identification to prove that the spouses are old enough to marry and that they are who they are, she watches them sign the marriage license, she has them swear that the information on the form is true, and she signs the affidavit: “Subscribed and sworn to/affirmed before me”.

Rose Marie’s role is nothing but a notary. I’m not putting down the importance of a notary in recognizing which documents are legally valid, but they don’t exactly participate in the negotiation or agreement that they are notarizing. They don’t object to the terms of the agreement – they don’t pay attention to them.

And according to,

“The only circumstances in which the notary may refuse to serve you is if the Notary is uncertain of a signer’s identity, willingness, mental awareness, or has cause to suspect fraud. Notaries may not refuse service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the person is not a client or customer.
So Rose Marie essentially wants to do the job of a notary, on the taxpayer’s dollar, but unlike other notaries she wants to get veto power over the documents she signs.
And that's what this is all about.  The ability to refuse to verify that information on a marriage license application is accurate.

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