Granby Town Clerk resigns over gay marriage law

Ruth Sheldon works in her office Monday afternoon / photo: Jim Kenyon

The Granby Town Clerk is resigning over her opposition to gay marriage.

Ruth Sheldon tells CNY Central's Jim Kenyon that her resignation is based "on my religious convictions." Sheldon submitted her resignation to the Granby Town Board earlier this month. She says she also informed the Secretary of State of her intentions, which you can read by clicking here and downloading a copy of the letter . You can also click here to read her letter to the Granby town board and supervisor.

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Sheldon says she will officially leave office on July 23rd, which would be the day before New York's gay marriage law would take effect.

In her letter of resignation to the Secretary of State Cesar Perales, Sheldon wrote: "I have always tried to treat everyone who comes to my desk with respect and without discrimination. Recently however, New York State passed the same sex marriage law, a law which violates my conscience and my faith. I have struggled prayerfully how to handle this situation, since I would be forced to sign same sex marriage licenses. It is clear that I must stand for what I believe."

In an interview with Jim Kenyon, Sheldon said "absolutely" when asked if she felt guided by God. "I believe God has made it clear how he feels about this type of thing." Even though Sheldon would be simply signing her name to a marriage license, Sheldon said, "it would be going against my principles, it would be going against my conscience, it would be going against my faith.... I try to uphold the law, this is a law I could not uphold. I felt it's time to step aside."

Last week, the clerk for the Town of Barker in Broome County also announced her resignation . In her resignation letter, Laura Fotusky told the Town of Barker, "The Bible clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female as a devine gift that preserves families and cultures."

Late last month, Volney Town Clerk Barbara McEwen also spoke out about her reluctance to sign same sex marriage certificates, but confirmed that she will do so if required.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who pushed for passage of the gay marriage law , told reporters last week, "When you enforce the laws of the State, you don't get to pick and choose the laws... If you can't enforce the law then you shouldn't be in that position."

The law permitting gay marriage goes into effect on Sunday, July 24th. A number of local clerk's offices will be open on Sunday to begin issuing marriage licenses.

The City of Syracuse is going the extra mile to be accessible to same sex couples this weekend by opening for unusual Sunday hours from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for the purpose of accepting marriage license applications. No appointment is needed for the 15 minute application process.

The clerk's office says it has received numerous inquiries. Syracuse City Clerk Jon Copanas reacted to the resignation of his counterpart in Granby. He said, "I'm surprised, quite frankly. It's a clerk's job to uphold the law."

The city now has the new marriage license forms. The old form had one section for "Groom" and one for "Bride" but the new form just has a "Bride/ Groom/ Spouse" label at the top of both sides.

Copanas said the special hours will not cost taxpayers any additional money since he and his deputy are salaried and staff will receive other time off.

"If you look at it, some people would want to say - it's a historic day for New York State and I was able to secure my license on the first day the law allowed," said City Clerk John Copanas.

Judge James Tormey is the 5th District Administrative Judge in charge of a six county Central New York area. He has sent out notices to all clerks to let them know he will make a judge available on Sunday for any couples wishing to get a waiting period waiver. The law requires a 24 hour waiting period between the moment the license is issued and the time a couple can marry.

Judges on the county or State Supreme court levels will utilize section 13-b of New York's domestic relations law to consider the waivers. The likely provision that will be utilized is a second which allows for a waiver if the "overriding public interest" is at stake. Each judge will decide each case on his or her own although they have received sample orders and affidavits to create a uniform procedure.

Judge Tormey has been in contact with Syracuse City Clerk Jon Copanas about the possibility judges being needed, but has not received any specific requests for couples needing waivers.

The City of Ithaca clerk's office is also considering opening on Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., with no appointment necessary, but plans have not been finalized yet. The clerk tells us they've received about 3 or 4 calls per day from same-sex couples asking about marriage license applications.