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Town clerk in Montgomery County denies marriage license to same-sex couple

Town clerk in Montgomery County denies marriage license to same-sex couple

Town says deputy clerk would have no objection
Town clerk in Montgomery County denies marriage license to same-sex couple
Dylan Toften
Photographer: Facebook

ROOT -- The town clerk in the Montgomery County town of Root has denied a marriage license to two men.

Dylan Toften posted news about the denial for a same-sex union on Facebook on Monday. The post has since generated more than 350 comments.

Town Clerk Laurel "Sherrie" Eriksen did not grant the license - which has become a legal right for all New Yorkers. Same-sex marriages have been legally recognized in the state of New York since June 2011, when the Marriage Equality Act was passed by the state Legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Wednesday Update: Cuomo calls for probe of same-sex marriage denial

Town Attorney Robert Subik said he knows about the incident. He said there were two reasons behind the denial -- one being the men did not follow established office procedure.

"Sherrie didn’t process the two men’s marriage license application because they failed to make an appointment with her, as everyone is required by her office to do," Subik said in an email.

The second reason, Subik said, was about religion.

"She has a religious objection and has referred the matter to her deputy clerk, who has no such objection and will issue the license when they make an appointment," Subik said in the email. "The clerks are both part-time and don’t man the office Monday through Friday. Of course, the two men are free to go to another jurisdiction to obtain their license.”

That's what happened. In the Facebook discussion, Toften said he and his partner went to Cobleskill and secured their license.

A deputy clerk is allowed to grant the license. The "Marriage Equality Act" reads that it "shall be necessary for all persons intended to be married in New York State to obtain a marriage license from a town or city clerk in New York State."

The law also reads that "no application for a marriage license shall be denied on the ground that the parties are of the same, or a different, sex."

Toften, contacted through Facebook, declined requests for in-person interviews. He said he wanted to talk to Cuomo before talking to the media.

Wednesday Update: Cuomo calls for probe of same-sex marriage denial

He did say he lives in Root. "I'm getting married on the 18th [of August]," he said in a Facebook note. "I figured I would just hit up the closest town clerk's office to get the papers. Wasn't expecting there to be an issue."

He also said Eriksen, whose husband Thomas Eriksen is Root's town justice, told him and his partner that she did not personally do marriage licenses for same sex couples. Eriksen could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Toften also said the deputy clerk, who has no religious objections to same-sex marriages, was not in the office.

"If her beliefs condone this then she needs to step down and have someone else take over," Toften said in his Facebook post. "I've lived out in this region for a while and I know how people feel about this. But when you take an oath, you are surrendering your views to fulfill that oath."

Municipal clerks have made headlines in the past for not issuing marriages licenses for same-sex couples. Kim Davis made international news in 2015 when, as county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, she defied a U.S. federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In New York state, controversy came to Cayuga County in 2011 when Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Marie Belforti refused to issue same-sex licenses in 2011.

Many people on Facebook supported Toften.

"She is violating the rights of same-sex marriage and just because she has her own religious views doesn't mean [she] should deny someone their rights," wrote one woman.

"Apparently she wants to lose her job," wrote one man. "She thinks same-sex marriages are wrong and won't do it. Blatantly against the law."

There was some support for Eriksen.

"So many comments, so much anger, name-calling and slander," one woman wrote. "And you've only heard one side of the story. You don't really know what happened in that office, but you've got the answer -- get rid of her."

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at wilkin@dailygazette.com.

 

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