A packed room at Wells College came Wednesday night to hear an open and honest conversation about religion, town government, and where elected officials draw the line between the two.
"If we resign, we give up on our freedoms, we have to fight for our freedoms," said Ledyard Town Clerk Rose Belforti. She is running for re-election even though she won't sign off on same sex marriage licenses because it violates her faith. Her religious conflict has made national headlines.
Belforti has been on the job for the last decade and says she only signs about 7 marriage licenses a year. That's less than 1 percent of her job. She argues the small work load can be handed over to a deputy clerk. "There are certain things that the bible teaches that I have to obey. It's really just to acknowledge the fact that I have religious freedom, and there are laws I can call upon if this goes to court. Because the constitution supports our religious freedom," said Belforti.
Wells College in Aurora, Cayuga County hosted the discussion between Belforti and Ed Easter, the man who wants to take her job. Students and community members were allowed to ask questions and each candidate could choose to respond. One student asked if Belforti came across any other issues in her tenure, that put her beliefs in jeopardy. Belforti says in her ten years, this is the first time she's faced a religious or moral conflict.
Easter says if the clerk doesn't want to follow the law, she should step down. "It makes me nervous when members of the executive branch decide they are not going to follow the rule of law. As a public servant you are there to serve the public," said Easter. "Laws change and situations change, and the clerk needs to change as well."
Belforti says she shouldn't have to check her religious beliefs at the door when she goes to work. If re-elected she says the deputy clerk will sign off on all marriage licenses.
Voters will decide who will fill the town clerk position in November.
What do you think about Belforti's stance? Should town clerks have to sign all marriage licenses? Who would you vote for in this race? Join the conversation and leave a comment below.