Gay-nay marriage clerks say: ‘I don’t!’
By ANDREA PEYSER
Call them New York’s Re fuseniks.
Rosemary Centi has per formed marriage ceremo nies in upstate Guil derland for the past 10 years, hitching hundreds of satisfied men and women. For good, she hopes.
This morning, Centi (pictured) is doing her last wedding.
“I am Catholic,” she told me, “and my definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. It is a sacrament.”
Laura Fotusky has joined couples in holy matrimony in the tiny upstate town of Barker for four years. Her run ends Thursday.
“I’m a Christian,” Fotusky told me. “As a Christian, I have to follow the word of God.”
Until I told Fotusky about Centi, she didn’t know her sister in protest existed. But these women are paired by a deep, spiritual bond. One that defies New York’s Marriage Equality Act, which takes effect Sunday.
Centi and Fotusky refuse to wed people of the same sex. After praying and agonizing for weeks, each public servant came to an identical conclusion: They’d rather quit than unite.
On July 11, Fotusky, 57, wrote an emotional letter to Barker officials. She resigned as town clerk of the hamlet near Buffalo, which has a population of just over 2,700. Her resignation takes effect Thursday, three days before gay marriage becomes the law of the state.
Readers know that I have come to accept same-sex marriage. But I cannot fathom why New York allows a rabbi, priest or Shinto minister to refuse, legally, to perform gay weddings — but the law extends not one lick of respect to nonordained individuals of faith.
“I believe that there is a higher law than the law of the land,” Fotusky wrote to town officials. “It is the law of God in the Bible.”
Marriage demand isn’t huge in Barker — Fotusky performed six weddings last year. Still, she’s giving up a job that paid $25,300 annually, an extreme hardship for the married mother of five.
Centi, 56, a married mom of three, will keep the $56,000-a-year post as town clerk of Guilderland, population 35,000, near Albany, to which she was elected as a Republican in 2000. She was appointed marriage officer in 2001. It’s unpaid, except “sometimes, I was given a gift” by happy couples, whom she wed at a rate of four per month.
Money isn’t the point.
“I have a number of friends whom I adore” who are gay, Centi told me. “I respect an individual’s right to live their life however they chose to do.” She paused.
“So I would expect the same courtesy.”
And there’s the rub.
I was horrified to hear Gov. Cuomo react flippantly to Fotusky’s resignation.
“This is the law,” he said last week. “When you enforce the laws of the state, you don’t get to pick and choose. If you can’t enforce the law, then you shouldn’t be in that position.”
Now, Bronx disc jockey Clifton McLaughlin, a born-again Christian, says he’ll refuse, if asked, to work at gay weddings.
“This is based on God’s law,” McLaughlin told me. “There is no way man can come with his own law.”
Could he be punished? Well, yes! A gay couple denied service by a DJ, not to mention a florist or wedding band, has grounds to sue in Civil Court, a Cuomo spokesman told me.
Fotusky has learned, to her amazement, that she has no right to religious freedom in her home state.
“I was struggling so much with making the decision” whether to resign, she said. “It was a matter of conviction.
“And if you really believe, you have to act on it. As a Christian, I have to follow the word of God.”
The soon-to-be unemployed clerk is now busy training her successor.
This is an outrage. All people — gay and straight, atheists and observers — have a moral duty to rise up and protest. This is about freedom.
If we fail to protect those with whom we disagree, everyone’s liberty is at risk.