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New York Town Clerk Worries About Genealogy While Opposing Same-Sex Marriage

25 August 2011
by Bridgette P. LaVictoire

“You always know who your mother is, but you only have her word as to who your father is.”

That is something that my great-grandmother said. It is a bit of wisdom going back to the era before the Romans and the Christians and the Moores took over Spain. It is simple. It is direct. It is honest. This is something that Ledyard, New York town clerk Rose Marie Belforti should try to keep in mind. In genealogical research, it is assumed that the spouse of your female ancestor is the father of that line of children.

In a recent interview, Ms Belforti stated:

I see a lot of problems with this form. For instance, I don’t know if, when we consider historically that people are going to go back and look at their genealogy and try to find out who their relatives are, when they come upon this form and they see father or parent, mother or parent, they’re never going to know if that’s their real mother and father or if it’s just a neighbor who was raising them or an uncle or an aunt or anybody … because a parent really can be anyone. We have these names on here and no one will ever know if it’s a woman or a man, if it’s same-sex or not.

This just goes to show that Belforti, who has refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses due to her religious beliefs has never really done a lot of genealogical work. She said this in an interview with CitizenLink.

She said about why she will not issue these licenses that:

I am a Christian. God is the final word. He is the Truth, and I believe what the Bible says. When I considered this, God was there with me and I really knew inside, without waver, that this is not right. It is the law now, and I do want to obey the law because God wants me to do that, but personally for me to administer this application to a couple of the same sex would be very difficult. And I don’t think it’d do the couple any service to have me as their person, because it really, truly, does grieve the Holy Spirit that resides in my heart, and I don’t know if I’d be able to cover that up for them. So, I want to remove myself from this process.

But, rather than following her convictions and walking out the door, she has refused to leave her post and follow the law. She has demanded that the town appoint someone else to take care of her job for her and issue the licenses. If that does not happen, she will bring in the Alliance Defense Fund, which will get about nowhere given the way that the law is written.

She has faced some harassment over it, including abusive phone calls and emails. That is certainly not really a good idea from the LGBT Community, but it would be nice if she understood that, well, the LGBT Community has always faced much worse from people who have claimed to speak for God.

Like many anti-gay bigots, unfortunately, Belforti resorts to the usual run of “some of my friends are gay”. She stated “I don’t personally have any problem with gay people. I have friends who are gay.” She went on to say that it is a policy issue for her and that she is upset that people do not have to tell what sex they are on the licenses.

She wrapped up the interview by saying:

I don’t understand why we have to change the form. I’m worried there’s another agenda involved here other than just allowing same-sex couples to be married. We know what a bride is, we know what a groom is—but if we choose to be a “spouse,” does that even limit (marriage) to a human being? Do you know what I’m saying?

No, actually, I do not know what you are saying Ms Belforti. The Celts, for instance, had no word for husband or wife/bride or groom. They had one word which translates to ‘spouse’ in English. After Christianity arrived, they created husband and wife by adding ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in front of ‘spouse’. What it sounds like is a rationalization for bigotry and not an attempt to grasp that ‘spouse’ has been part of the English language for centuries. In fact, ‘spouse’ goes back to the Latin for a partner in a marriage, so it is not like that word is unknown.

What is more, there are other documents that genealogists use other than marriage licenses to determine the various information that they need. So, griping over this one is just an attempt to justify bigotry and not actually understand what it is that goes on with genealogy.

Trust me- my mother and I have worked on my genealogy for the better part of two decades.

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