New York Gay Marriage Law: Another Town Clerk Resigns

Another town clerk in upstate New York has resigned from her position, insisting her religious faith prevents her from issuing gays and lesbians marriage licenses. Public officials in New York will be obligated to issue gay marriage licenses once the law supporting such unions comes into effect on July 24.

Rosemary Centi has served for 10 years as an official marriage officer in Guilderland, N.Y., but now says she will be stepping down. She will, however, remain the elected town clerk. She will no longer marry couples, but will instead only issue licenses to all eligible couples, both homosexual and heterosexual.

"I am Catholic, and my definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. It is a sacrament," Centi told the New York Post.

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Her boss, Ken Runion, says he was taken aback and wonders if Centi is possibly breaking the law. “Regardless of personal beliefs, same-sex marriage is now legal and we have to follow the law,” Runion told CBS 6 last Thursday.

Just days earlier, another town clerk handed in her resignation, also saying her faith prevented her from doing her job with a clear conscience.

“I cannot put my signature on something that is against God,” Laura Fotusky, town clerk for Barker, said in a statement in regards to issuing marriage licenses. The statement was made available on the website of conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom.

“The Bible clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female as a divine gift that preserves families and culture," Fotusky, who had served as town clerk for four years, also said.

Fotusky officially leaves her job on July 21, three days before the same-sex marriage law goes into effect across the state.

New York's Marriage Equality Act offers some protection for religious and benevolent organizations that may want to refuse their services in relation to the law, such as hosting or officiating a gay wedding.

However, private individuals are not protected from being sued for turning away gay couples who may seek their services.

According to a report by the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom: “The bill claims to protect pastors from having to perform same-sex ceremonies and churches from having to host gay weddings or receptions, but these protections were already present under existing constitutional protections. The 'Marriage Equality Act' failed to include religious freedoms protections for individuals and non-religious affiliated organizations.”

A memo issued July 15 by the Alliance Defense Fund claims New York municipal clerks have the right to request an accommodation for any “sincerely held religious belief” regarding issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

The organization insists that the “New York Human Rights Law requires employers to accommodate those beliefs, unless it places an undue hardship on the employer.”

As July 24 draws closer, more Christian clerks in the state may find themselves confronted like Fotusky and Centi to either comply with the marriage law or find their jobs in jeopardy.

Kathleen Rice, the District Attorney for Nassau County on Long Island, issued a statement last week to warn clerks who feel their faith may be compromised by the law. Rice, reminding clerks of their obligation to obey the law, warns in the statement that clerks could lose more than their jobs; they could find themselves facing criminal prosecution.

However, Fotusky explained in her resignation that she looks to a higher law: “the law of God in the Bible.”

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