For Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews or others who cannot in conscience participate in such ceremonies, he explained, “you are not eligible to be a town clerk, because that’s one of the things that town clerks are required to do” in states that recognize the unions.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed through the state’s new “gay marriage” law in June, has said that those who cannot follow the new law should not hold the position of town clerk. A July 13 memo from the New York State Department of Health said it is a misdemeanor for a clerk to refuse to provide a marriage license to eligible applicants.
The major Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose is presently seeking the resignation of Rose Marie Belforti, a Ledyard, New York town clerk, who cannot provide the licenses on account of her religious objections.
Maggie Gallagher, former chair of the National Organization for Marriage, said that the Nassau County district attorney has threatened clerks with criminal prosecution if they tried to refer a same-sex couple to another employee.
“Kudos to those who have refused to bow to Caesar’s demands. And even more kudos to those who've decided not to resign but to stay and fight for their own, and all our rights,” Gallagher said to CNA.
She characterized town clerks as “canaries in the coal mine” because they are among the first to be affected by the ideas embedded in the recognition of same-sex “marriage.”
“If we start speaking out, rising up together, this kind of persecution would not, cannot continue. Their hope is that we give up, give in, acknowledge their sovereignty over God’s,” she said.
“This we cannot do. We have to find the unshakeable 10 percent who will stand, who will speak truth in love to the new power, and make it clear we cannot be bribed or coerced into muting or disappearing.”
Gallagher said Gov. Cuomo should apologize to 65-year-old Ruth Sheldon, a Granby town clerk who resigned because she could not in good conscience sign same-sex marriage licenses.
“There is no cost to protecting religious liberty--failing to do so is simply mean-spirited and pointless.”
Assurances of religious freedom protections appear not to have helped Catholic Charities agencies in Illinois, where the state government is now refusing to renew its contracts for foster care and adoption services after the passage of a civil unions bill last December.
“They believe we’re in violation of the law and are refusing to contract with us because of our religious beliefs, that children are best raised in a home with a mother and a father,” Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, told CNA.
(Story continues below)
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The conference believes the state is interpreting the law in an incorrect manner. Gilligan noted that the civil unions bill included religious freedom protection in its title and the Illinois Human Rights Act “clearly allows a religious adoption agency to discriminate.” An exchange on the Senate floor also established that it was not the intention of the bill to impede Catholic Charities’ or other faith-based organizations’ religious practice.
Nevertheless, Catholic child placement agencies may lose their funding and face closure.
“It’s really a tragedy if the state decides it can’t embrace different organizations of different faiths to perform social services and health care,” Gilligan said. He characterized the action as an impediment to religious liberties of both organizations and individuals.
“There are Catholic foster parents out there that only wish to perform foster care with Catholic Charities agencies,” he said.
Gilligan believes the actions in Illinois signal a major change in the place of Catholic institutions in the public square.
Scholars like Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and lesbian activist who was appointed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, foresaw many conflicts coming between gay rights and religious liberty.