A town clerk’s decision to reject a marriage license for a same-sex couple New York’s governor to call Wednesday for an investigation.
Dylan Toften of Root, N.Y., wrote Monday on Facebook that Root Town Clerk Laurel “Sherrie” Eriksen would not issue a marriage license to him and his fiancé when they applied last month.
Town attorney Robert Subik confirmed the incident, telling The (Schenectady, N.Y.) Daily Gazette that the license was rejected because the men didn’t make an appointment and because of Eriksen’s religious beliefs.
“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 told the paper in email.
While a deputy clerk can grant a marriage license in New York State, the state’s 2011 Marriage Equality Act doesn’t allow a clerk to reject a license based on religious beliefs.
The U.S. Supreme Court in its June 26, 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges decision ruled that all states must allow same-sex marriage.
Eriksen recommended the men either come back when the deputy clerk was available to grant the license or go to another municipality, Subik said.
“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.”
The couple went to Cobleskill, about a dozen miles south, and received the license without problem.
Officials in Root, a town of about 1,700 residents about 40 miles northwest of Albany, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Since the same-sex marriage law has been in effect in New York, clerks in several instances declined to process marriage licenses because of their religious beliefs. In at least two cases, those clerks resigned.
Cuomo, a Democrat seeking his third term as governor, called this most recent incident an “unconscionable act of discrimination that goes against our values as New Yorkers.”
“Personally I cannot believe that this could happen anywhere in this country, let alone in the state of New York,” he said, indicating that he is directing an investigation to ensure the rejection never happens again.
Cuomo also offered to officiate at the couple’s wedding, scheduled for Aug. 18.
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I would like to congratulate Dylan Toften and his future husband on their marriage,” the governor said.