Cuomo: Clerks Against Same-Sex Marriage "Don't Get to Pick and Choose"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The rainbow flag symbolizing gay pride flies from a pole in Manhattan on June 21, 2011 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty)

Governor Andrew Cuomo has made clear that clerks who do not wish to perform same-sex marriages should find other work. This Sunday, when same-sex couples statewide line up for the first day, clerks will perform the service that they were elected to do.

"You don't get to say, 'I like this law and I'll enforce this law, or I don't like this law and I won't enforce this law'—you can't do that.” Cuomo stated. “If you can't enforce the law, then you shouldn't be in that position."

While the legislation contained substantial protections for religious and faith-based organizations, there are no provisions for clerks to not do the licenses. 

Secretary of the New York State Association of City and Village Clerks Jim Koury says that there have been two town clerks that have resigned since the legislation passed. Former Granby Clerk Ruth Sheldon and former Barker Town Clerk Laura Fotusky resigned rather than sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

Saying “the law is the law”, Koury echoed Cuomo’s statement that people charged with enforcing state laws do not get to choose which laws they want to comply with.

“The exemptions were only for organizations and churches, et cetera. Not individual clerks, which is a good thing!” Koury said in an email.

Nassau DA Kathleen Rice warned clerks in her county that failure to do their job could result in prosecution saying “a public official’s intentional refusal to issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples may constitute Official Misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor.”

Town clerks are independently elected for two year terms and are not unionized. City clerks are usually considered to be management, and not unionized either. 

A New York group that fought against same-sex marriage has set up a fund they are calling the "Courage Fund". The New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms website says that the fund exists to "assist courageous municipal clerks and other people of conscience in New York State who oppose same-sex 'marriage' from harassment, denial of rightful promotion, or unfair termination for invoking New York State law protecting their sincerely-held religious beliefs." The website also says the money will be used to match the $25,000 salary given up by Barker Town Clerk Fotusky when she quit her post rather than issue licenses to same-sex couples.

In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian group in Arizona, has issued a memo to New York State clerks advising them that New York State Human Rights law requires employers to try to accommodate employee's "sincerely held religious beliefs", and that clerks are not prohibited from delegating their responsibilities to their deputies.

Barbara MacEwen, the town clerk of Volney, in Oswego County, had previously told the New York Daily News that while she did not mind her office issuing same-sex licenses, she did not want to sign them. However as of Thursday the person answering the phone at the office said she had no plans to resign, and otherwise would give no comment.

Koury, who is also the Oneonta City Clerk and editor of Diversity Rules Magazine, takes issue with MacEwen’s reluctance to sign the licenses.

“I find it reprehensible, honestly, that she is not willing to comply with the law. She is an elected official and it’s unfortunate they cannot leave their religious beliefs in church on Sunday and not let it intrude on their professional duties.”

He pointed out that the clerks don’t actually perform the marriage – they just issue the license. New York State has a 24-hour waiting period between the issuance of the marriage license and the time a couple may wed. Koury says because of the historic significance of this occasion, many clerks will have judges there on Sunday to consider waiving the waiting period.

Just in case, he’s making sure to have someone at the site who can officiate a marriage.

“I [will] have the mayor on hand to do marriages here as well as a justice of the peace, and one couple is bringing their own officiant in the event their waiver request is approved.”



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Comments [13]

MikeHizzo from Augusta, GA

I do not think that as a country formed on freedom of speech and on freedom to choose which religion you follow, that we should prosecute those who oppose gay marriage due to their beliefs. We leave our religious beliefs out of our professional careers when we hear people talking profanely in the workplace, or when we see others cheating their way through assignments or tasks. These types of offenses are harmless to us personally and at most we can report these offenses to the correct authority. But when the authority is the one telling you to perform a task that is against your beliefs, then it is time to leave that occupation. I do not refer to "we" as a way of including myself. I am definitely not Christian. We all have values and beliefs, and if I were to tell you to totally disregard your beliefs then you would walk out as well! We, as a nation, should not impose laws on citizens that contradict their religion. I know there are those Rastafarians out there who want to smoke weed or ganja, and claim its part of their religion! To tell someone to perform a task that is completely against their beliefs is wrong, and should be considered before revoking that person. After all, there are many clerks who do not oppose same sex marriage, let them perform the duties needed for those of same sex. And those who are against it, well there are plenty of straight couples, or heterosexual couples who need to be married as well. There are certain duties that can be dictated and just because the "law" says it's ok, does not make it ok for all!! I am for same sex marriage, but I am also against forcing people to perform tasks that are completely against their religious beliefs or telling them to ignore their beliefs at work and save them for Sunday! Absolutely Absurd!!

Jul. 31 2011 11:54 AM
Thomas Mc

Nothing is more predictable than Christian hatred, bigotry, and lies.

Jul. 25 2011 01:57 PM

What I Believe.

I believe marriage is the death of passion, and Michael Jackson was innocent. I
believe it’s nice to be nice and mean people suck, I believe there is no god and life after puberty is preparation and opportunity. I believe LBJ killed JFK and only wine gets better with age. I believe spell check, youtube and romance are
Indispensable and I believe we all have “it” coming. I believe if you find someone male or female you want for the rest of your life, start the rest of your life as soon as possible.

Jul. 24 2011 09:12 AM

So now religious believers are supposed to leave all their moral beliefs "at church on sunday"? I guess I should leave stop volunteering at a hospital or giving food or assistance to the needy since those things are also motivate by my religious beliefs. Sorry Mr. Koury, but people can just turn off their conscience when it's convenient for you or the government. Bravo the the clerks refusing to put up with this "marriage equality" farce!

Jul. 22 2011 04:10 PM

I wonder ow many times a cop would prefer to look the other way and let a vigilante mob have their way with a child moleser or killer? But their job says they can't do that, the killer is entitled to certain protections under the law. Now, I'm not saying that gays and murderers are the same, murderers are way worse, of course. So if they get protection from mob justice, and the cops have to provide that protection, shouldn't the city clerks suck it up and let a couple of men marry each other?

Jul. 21 2011 08:40 PM
shledon from brooklyn

Well good for her. Her personal religious views got in the way of her doing her civil service (by default secular) job. So she quit - well done. Hope the door doesn't hit her ____ on the way out.

Jul. 21 2011 05:07 PM
Karen from NYC

If you have a sincere religious belief that the theory of evolution has no scientific basis, whereas creationism does, you are entitled to that belief; but you can't teach your beliefs as part of the biology curriculum in NYS public schools. If that means that, in good conscience, you can't do your job as a biology teacher, then so be it. Quit.

Same with the clerks; their job requires them to issue marriage licenses. This duty is not incidential to their employment (as would be, for example, whether they wore headscarves while doing so) -- it is what they are hired to do. If they can't follow the laws governing the issuance of such licenses, then so be it. Quit.

Jul. 21 2011 04:49 PM

I said it on yahoo and I will say it here. She/They have values and religious beliefs basically that gay marriage is a sin but I wonder how many licenses did they sign for 2nd and 3rd marriages. If they are following the bible, divorce is just as big a sin as homosexuality. All sins are abominations. No one sin is greater than the other and there will not be a separate hell for homosexuals and clerks who sign licenses to allow for more than one marriage. Now the idiots are out of jobs. Besides that, they are not the church. They are the law, and with separation of church and state, they're following the law, not residing over a marriage.

Jul. 21 2011 04:21 PM
TruthWins from Rochester, NY


How DARE you pretend to be ignorant enough to beleive that there is any correlation at all between being gay and being a murdering child molestor. Does that mean that all heterosexual people are prone to molest and murder female children? You can't possibly believe that.

Also, I am afraid it is you who are mistaken. Most clerks will have NO PROBLEM conducting their legal responsibility with regard to issuing and signing marriage licenses regardless of who the spouses are because unlike the handful of religiously stunded morons who have already spoken up, most people are reasonable individuals, regardless of religious groupspeak.

You don't have to beleive me, only observe what happens in the coming weeks.

Finally, because of your distorted, malicious, misanthropic beliefs, you are the one who is perverted, at least spiritually.

If I believed in hell, I would say go there. But the god I beleive in is kind and non-judgemental, and is not modeled on prehistoric tyrants, tribal leaders, slave drivers or midwestern schoolmarms (as yours is if you had the curiosity, breadth of experience and exposure to history and literature you'd need to figure it out).

Jul. 21 2011 04:15 PM
Mike from Texas

I see everyday that people under the age of 40 that haven't been brain washed by bad greedy churchs are okay with equality for gay americans. Americans are suppose to be free to live their life as they choose or that's what everyone says. Plus seperation of church and state is a fundmental basis of your country. So clerks do your job!!!! And everyone love your fellow man that's what Jesus would do. My grandfather was murdered for being a Jew and just wanting to love a woman that was not. So think before you hate people.

Jul. 21 2011 04:14 PM
Virgil from South Georgia

Well, religious beliefs are for one's own life, not to force on others; if a clerk does not believe in gay marriage, then that clerk should have only heterosexual relationships in their personal life.

While many groups are telling clerks that they can claim "religious beliefs" as a method not to issue licenses, they are quite wrong. The position of clerk is not a religious office, and no one is forcing the clerk to do something that violates their beliefs for themselves.

To say they will not issue a marriage license for religious reasons makes no more sense than a law enforcement officer refusing to protect the life of an abortion doctor; what you believe is for you to live by, not to force others to live by!


Jul. 21 2011 03:24 PM

Most Clerks will not not agree with with "gay marriage" because ... it is not easy to support an obvious farce!

It is also never easy to ignore the evidence, however adept some politicians have become at doing same!

Bloomberg could have engineered political credibility on this issue by shouting as vociferously for the LAW that DOMA represents ... but he chose not to! How hypocritical is this?

More and more young persons are reading ... and noting the evidence AGAINST "gay marriage"!

Laura Fotusky woke up to that fact this June! And this is good, because as more and more persons are forced to come to grips with the anomalies and inherent contradictions of "gay marriage", the nation will reconsider the overwhelming evidence against it!

One also senses the desperation in media circles as New Yorkers beg off on the "celebrations" for the "Atrocity in Albany"

One ALSO senses that the awareness of the scale of the tragedy is ... multiplying ... as New Yorkers found out how the "Atrocity in Albany" was engineered. See the Gotham Gazette at ( ). A party will be thrown on July 24 ... but no-one will come!

If this story is true, wholesale thuggery was used to engineer that vote!

The story in the Gotham Gazette validates much of what we referred to in the online article “Is Cuomo Ignoring the Evidence Against Gay Marriage?” ( ).

It illustrates 27 INITIAL reasons … 17 explicitly stated … why America and New Yorkers will still reject “gay marriage” in 2011 and onwards!

The REAL “Atrocity in Albany” was that Alesi, Grisanti, Saland and McDonald … as indeed all Senate members … were in possession of the facts before the vote!

33 Senators, and Governor Cuomo, and Mayor Bloomberg … ignored the evidence!

And now the Levi Aron fiasco ...

Was Levi Aron "gay"? Was the boy sexually molested?

If Reasons 9 ... and 7 ... in the online article “Is Cuomo Ignoring the Evidence Against Gay Marriage?” ( ) applies in this case, then America and New York have some serious re-assessment to do!

New York was conned on this issue ... pure and simple, and Ruth Sheldon and Laura Fotusky are the real heroes!

Jul. 21 2011 02:54 PM
Mark Theo from LA

He's correct. The letter of the law can not be a case of "pick and choose" what you like and don't like. Bravo!

Jul. 21 2011 02:26 PM

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