Some Christian county clerks have spoken out against the legal redefinition of marriage in New York State earlier this year when a gay marriage law was passed. However, gay activists have now bashed them for their traditional religious beliefs on marriage.
Three clerks, Rose Marie Belforti, Ruth Sheldon, and Laura Fotusky, have all publicly voiced their opposition to the redefinition of marriage in New York by either refusing to grant gay marriage licenses, or simply quitting altogether.
Their actions have been decried by gay activist groups.
Belforti, who lives in rural Ledyard, New York, is a Christian dairy farmer. She has remained faithful to her traditional Christian beliefs on marriage by refusing to grant gay marriage licenses, which would conflict with her beliefs. She instead assigned the job to her deputy, who does it in her stead.
“Once in a while in your life you have to stand up for Christ and this is my turn,” she told CBN News in an interview.
Belforti says she wants to “be fair to everyone,” but gay activists claim she’s being anything but.
Another Ledyard resident, Ed Easter, has brought attention to her refusal to go against her faith by commencing a letter-writing campaign bashing Belforti. His goal in the writing campaign is to get Belforti fired, even though she’s had the position for over 10 years, and gives out less than seven licenses per year.
Belforti reached out to the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious freedom advocacy organization, for help.
An ADF lawyer, Jordan Lawrence, commented on the case: "We need to protect religious liberty and the right of conscience. And legalizing same-sex marriage creates these kinds of conflicts."
“[Protecting] these town clerks,” Lawrence says, is akin to protecting religious freedom.
The other two Christian town clerks to stand up against the redefinition of marriage, Ruth Sheldon of Granby, NY, and Laura Fotusky of Barker, NY, had a simpler solution to their conflicts with the new law: quitting.
After 13 years granting marriage licenses, Ruth Sheldon decided the passage of the gay marriage law was just too much. She resigned just a day before the law was put into effect, and retains the title of being the first to do so.
“I think [the remaining Christian clerks] should have a right to their religious beliefs, their biblical beliefs,” she said to HBN.
Laura Fotusky was the second clerk to go: “It was hard. I had tears… It was unsettling,” she explained.
The two clerks who left aren’t alone. Along with them are 10 others, who looked for assistance in fighting this affront to their right to religious freedom.
A Christian group, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, answered their call, and has been working with the public servants to see what can be done.
Jason McGuire, the executive director of the group, said that the other 10 women haven’t challenged the law publicly “because of the bullying factor that is applied to these types of situations.”
“There are more than 900 clerks in New York State. And a dozen of them have actually called us to say we have concerns about this issue,” explained McGuire. “ I think there are many more than that below the tip of the iceberg.”