New York Christian clerk may go to court over gay marriages

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A town clerk in New York may go to court over her refusal to sign marriage licences for gay couples.

Rose Marie Belforti, the town clerk for Ledyard, says God does not want her to condone same-sex relationships.

The 57-year-old has refused to sign any marriage licences – for gay or straight couples – since New York legalised gay marriage.

Instead, the clerk, who was elected ten years ago, has appointed a deputy to provide marriage licences.

Ms Belforti is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based Christian group which will argue that her beliefs must be protected by the law.

The case is being seen as a test for Christian rights in the US.

On August 30th, a lesbian couple approached Ms Belforti’s office to ask for a marriage licence.

Katie Carmichael and Deirdre DiBiaggio, who were declined by the clerk, are considering taking legal action.

Ms Belforti told the New York Times last week: “New York law protects my right to hold both my job and my beliefs.

“I’m not supposed to have to leave my beliefs at the door at my government job.”

New York state law says that a “public servant is guilty of official misconduct when, with intent to obtain a benefit or deprive another person of a benefit… He knowingly refrains from performing a duty which is imposed upon him by law or is clearly inherent in the nature of his office”.

Ms DiBaggio and Ms Carmichael are being represented by the Washington-based liberal advocacy group People for the American Way, which is pressuring the clerk to serve gay people or resign.

Speaking earlier this month, Ms Belforti compared gay marriages to incest.

She told CitizenLink: “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?”