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WAMC New York News
Tue July 19, 2011
NY County Clerks Have Allies
By Dave Lucas
Albany, NY – When New York's new definition of marriage takes effect on July 24, many county clerks will be confronted with the conflict between a surrendering to a new job requirement and adherence to their own religious beliefs. They may have some legal options - Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.
On its website, The Alliance Defense Fund describes itself as "a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith." For years the ADF has supported traditional marriage in court cases. The alliance has issued a memo that favors County Clerks here in New York State who find themselves at odds with the new marriage quality law.
The ADF claims its memo was circulated in response what the organization identifies as "threats from top officials of the Empire State to charge clerks who decline to issue such licenses with a criminal offense--forcing clerks to decide between their career and their faith."
Democratic Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice sent a letter warning local municipal clerks there that --quote-- "a public official's intentional refusal to issue marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples may constitute official misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor."
State Senator Ruben Diaz, a Bronx Democrat who staunchly opposes same-sex marriage, argues that no one should have to resign from their job if issuing marriage licenses to gay couples violates his or her conscience.
On Monday, Town Clerk Ruth Sheldon of Granby, Oswego County, resigned after "prayerful" deliberation. Sheldon will remain on the job as town clerk through Saturday. The vast majority of clerks across New York State say they will honor New York's new marriage law and will begin issuing licenses come Sunday.