The Daily Gazette has reported that on July 30, 2018, two men were unable to obtain a same-sex “marriage” license from Laurel “Sherrie” Eriksen, the Town Clerk in the Town of Root, New York.
Root’s town attorney, Robert Subik, told the Gazette that Eriksen denied the men’s request “‘because they failed to make an appointment with her, as everyone is required by her office to do.’” According to Subik, Eriksen and the Deputy Town Clerk are part-time employees, and the Clerk’s Office is not staffed on an everyday basis. However, Subik added that Eriksen has a religious objection to providing same-sex “marriage” licenses. Eriksen reportedly advised the men to make an appointment with Root’s Deputy Town Clerk, who does not object to providing same-sex “marriage” licenses. The men opted to obtain a license from the Cobleskill Town Clerk instead.
Clerk Eriksen’s handling of this situation seems reasonable to us; however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sees the matter differently. Accusing Eriksen of committing “‘an unconscionable act of discrimination,’” the Governor has ordered an investigation. Furthermore, Gov. Cuomo has invited the two men to Albany and offered to officiate at their “wedding.”
There are several problems here. First, New York’s so-called Marriage Equality Act—which would not have become law without the Gov. Cuomo’s support and advocacy—contains no language allowing public employees with faith-based objections to opt out of providing same-sex “marriage” licenses. Second, New York has not passed a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA); if it had, Eriksen’s rights of conscience would likely be protected here. In this situation, accommodating Eriksen’s beliefs would not have caused the two men to incur any hardship in obtaining a license. The men were not scheduled to “marry” until August 18; they had plenty of time to make an appointment with the Deputy Clerk or to visit the Canajoharie Town Clerk’s Office (just seven miles away, and open Monday through Friday) instead. If Gov. Cuomo wants to point fingers in this situation, he should look in the mirror and point them at himself for his failure to enact laws that protect the rights and freedoms of all New Yorkers—not just those who share his social and political views.
Here’s the bottom line: Public employees should not be forced into situations where they must either violate God’s laws, violate man’s laws, or quit their jobs. Please keep Town Clerk Sherrie Eriksen in your prayers.