August 19, 2011 Print

Friday Five: Rose Marie Belforti

by Karla Dial

Rose Marie Belforti is the town clerk for Ledyard, N.Y. Her Christian beliefs will notallow her to sign same-sex marriage licenses. So, she’s asked whether she can delegate that responsibility. But her job is not protected under the state’s same-sex marriage law. She spoke exclusively with CitizenLink.

Why did you decide not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

I am a Christian. God is the final word. He is the Truth, and I believe what the Bible says. When I consideredthis, God was there with me and I really knew inside, without waver, that this is not right. It is the law now, and I do want to obey the law because God wants me to do that, but personally for me to administer this application to a couple of the same sex would be very difficult. And I don’t think it’d do the couple any service to have me as their person, because it really, truly, does grieve the Holy Spirit that resides in my heart, and I don’t know if I’d be able to cover that up for them. So, I want to remove myself from this process.

Is there any way around it?

The law requires employers to accommodate an employee’s religious observance or practice unless (doing so would create undue hardship). That means if they can appoint someone else to do something that would be difficult for that person because of his religious beliefs, (they can). It also allows all the clerks’ duties in issuing marriage licenses to be delegated to a deputy clerk or other municipal employee.

What happens if the town ignores your request to delegate the task and says you have to do it anyway?

I think at that point I will have to ask the Alliance Defense Fund to help me. The town should accept it, and if they don’t, we’ll just have to take that one step at a time.

What’s the response been like since your story broke?

The emails and phone calls I’m getting are very slanderous. If they want to talk to me about the issue, I would love to do that, but to just scream at me over the phone or send me vile emails—I don’t know what that does to try to get to a better understanding of things.

What do you really believe about homosexuality?

I think we’re all born into the image of God. I don’t personally have any problem with gay people. I have friends who are gay. This is more a policy issue for me. The new marriage application form says, “Bride/Groom/Spouse” on both sides. You can tell what your sex is, but it’s optional.

I see a lot of problems with this form. For instance, I don’t know if, when we consider historically that people are going to go back and look at their genealogy and try to find out who their relatives are, when they come upon this form and they see father or parent, mother or parent, they’re never going to know if that’s their real mother and father or if it’s just a neighbor who was raising them or an uncle or an aunt or anybody … because a parent really can be anyone. We have these names on here and no one will ever know if it’s a woman or a man, if it’s same-sex or not.

Maybe some people would think that that doesn’t matter.  But I have a feeling that as we go down the road there’s going to be reasons why these things do matter. And that maybe we don’t have the foresight right now to see that they will matter.

I don’t understand why we have to change the form. I’m worried there’s another agenda involved here other than just allowing same-sex couples to be married. We know what a bride is, we know what a groom is—but if we choose to be a “spouse,” does that even limit (marriage) to a human being? Do you know what I’m saying?