Montgomery County

Town of Root agrees to $20k fine, new policies after clerk denied same-sex couple marriage license

Denial of marriage license resulted in $20,000 state fine, $25,000 payment to settle with couple
Root Town Clerk Sherrie Eriksen reads a brief statement during a Town Board meeting on April 10.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Root Town Clerk Sherrie Eriksen reads a brief statement during a Town Board meeting on April 10.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

ROOT — The town agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty and adopt new policies and training as part of a settlement with the state after Root Town Clerk Sherrie Eriksen refused to grant a marriage license to a same-sex couple in July 2018, according to the state Division of Human Rights.

In an investigation launched shortly after the marriage license denial emerged, the Division of Human rights found that “there was probable cause the town of Root violated the state law, which mandates that no application for a marriage license be denied on the grounds that the parties are of the same sex.” Investigators concluded that “couples were treated differently by the clerk’s office based on their sexual orientation.”

The town had already reached a settlement with the couple, Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd, requiring Eriksen to make a public apology and the town to pay out $25,000 to the couple. 

“I’m sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple,” Eriksen said at the town’s April 10 meeting. 

Toften and Hurd sought a marriage license from Eriksen on July 30, 2018. But even though they had the necessary documents, Eriksen refused to process their application for the marriage license. The couple ultimately received their license in Cobleskill. With the backing of dozens of supporter, Toften and Hurd turned out to Root Town Board meetings demanding an apology and Eriksen’s resignation.

As part of the settlement with the state, the Root must adopt “non-discriminatory” policies that ensure all Root residents can obtain a marriage license. The town must also train its current and future employees on the state’s human rights law and post an anti-discrimination poster in a public place in the town building. The civil fine is to be paid to the state.

In a statement, the couple thanked state officials for their investigation and settlement.

“It’s reassuring to know that the state of New York is looking out for residents of small towns and that no New Yorkers’ rights can be denied so easily,” the couple said. 

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