NY State: Town Clerk Forced To Apologize For Refusing Marriage License To Gay Couple

Town clerk Sherrie Eriksen apologizes for denying gay couple a marriage license
Town clerk Sherrie Eriksen apologizes for denying gay couple a marriage license

On July 30 last summer, Thomas Hurd and Dylan Toften went to the office of their town clerk in Root, New York, to obtain a marriage license.

Instead of a joyful, upbeat episode in their lives, the men were dismayed to be turned down by town clerk Sherrie Eriksen.

She put the couple off saying they couldn’t get a marriage license because they didn’t make an appointment before coming to the office, according to WRAL.

She also told the men that she has a personal objection to same-sex marriage.

That’s despite the fact that New York state legalized marriage equality in 2011, and the U.S. Supreme Court made it the law of the land in 2015.

Toften took to social media at the time to share the incident writing, “Town of Root clerk is a bigot!!! Refused to do our marriage license. She said make an appointment to have her deputy do it… do your job Andrew Cuomo.”

Gov. Cuomo responded to the post by tweeting, “Marriage equality is our law in NY. The denial of a license to a same sex couple is an unconscionable act of discrimination. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I’d like to congratulate Dylan & his future husband on their marriage.”

Several town meetings were held, an investigation was launched, and a lawsuit was threatened by the couple, according to WRGB News.

In the end, an agreement was reached: the town of Root would pay the men $25,000 plus Eriksen would personally deliver a public apology.

And so it came to be on Wednesday afternoon that Eriksen, standing in front of news cameras and town leaders at the weekly town meeting, made her apology.

“In my capacity as town clerk, it is my responsibility to provide marriage licenses to all couples, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, so long as they meet all applicable New York state requirements,” she began. “As such, my office and I will personally will issue marriage licenses to any couple without exception, who is legally entitled to be issued one.”

Her voice wavering a bit, she continued, “On July 30th of last year, there was an unfortunate incident involving Mr Thomas Hurd and Mr Dylan Toften, who came to my office seeking a marriage license.”

“I am sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple, thank you,” she concluded.

Here’s the video via local CBS News anchor Emily DeFeciani:

Hurd and Toften eventually received a marriage license from another town and were married on August 18.

The couple told WRGB that they’re proud they stood up for marriage equality.

“If we had never stood our ground, how many more people would’ve had to go through this?” Toften said.

Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd (image via Facebook)

“Pop-up” chapels in Central Park for same-sex weddings

From the Advocate: Twenty-four couples are slated to marry in a pop-up chapel located in New York City’s Central Park on Sunday.

Dese’rae L. Stage and Katie Marks were already planning a wedding in Boston, when the news came that New York may pass a marriage law of its own. They decided to get married in their home state first, before heading north for a bigger ceremony.

“We’ve picked our closest local friends and a couple of friends are coming from Miami to see the ceremony,” Stage told the Village Voice. “And we’re still doing Boston next year, so our parents can come. It was kind of one of those things, to be a part of history…”

One of the Pop Up Chapel’s designs resemble a Hershey’s Kiss, while the other is a rainbow array of ribbons, designed by New York firms Z-A Studio and ICRAVE. One ceremony in the chapels include an officiant, photographer, champagne, and cupcakes.

Click here to see photos of the happy couples.

Marriage equality a reality in NY state

With a rainbow-lit Niagara Falls as a backdrop early Sunday, Lambert, 54, and Rudd, 53, were among the first gay couples to tie the knot with the blessing of the state, which last month became the sixth and largest to sanction gay marriage. Couples in Albany, Hudson and Long Island also exchanged vows just after midnight Saturday, kicking off what was expected to be a Sunday packed with weddings.

Lambert and Rudd, grandmothers with 12 grandchildren between them, have been together for more than a decade and had long been fighting for the right to marry.

The women, both of Buffalo, smiled broadly as they exchanged traditional marriage vows, promising to love and cherish each other in sickness and in health. The crowd of several hundred people cheered as they were pronounced married and shared their first kiss.

Read more here.

NY marriage equality good for business

Excellent opinion piece on CNN by Bob Witeck on the economic upside marriage equality will bring to New York state.

Witeck points to the fact that to attract the brightest and the best – which includes same-sex couples – you have to offer strong and equal benefits.

New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and city leaders must be cheering the economic shot in the arm as hotels, restaurants, caterers, florists and legions of vendors welcome the wedding and honeymoon brigades. Some estimate nearly $400 million in revenues for the state over the next three years.

These rewards are also the result of changing tides among American corporations and employers over recent decades. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage legislation was endorsed not only by major corporations like Xerox and Google but by scores of smaller business owners across the state.

78% of all LGBT adults said that they would prefer jobs in states that recognize marriage equality.

The Williams Institute, an LGBT-related think-tank at the University of California, estimates $155 million will roll into the Empire state economy in the first year of marriage equality alone.

NYC to Hold Lottery for Gay Marriage Sunday

From the Wall Street Journal: Fearing demand for same-sex weddings will be too great for the City Clerk’s Office to handle this Sunday, city officials have announced a lottery for weddings on the first day that gay couples can legally wed in the state.

Officials said couples could be stuck waiting in long lines all day and, though the city has added extra clerks for Sunday, ultimately would not be able to get married because of the high volume.

The lottery will guarantee 764 couples — either opposite- or same-sex — access to marry at one of the City Clerk’s five offices Sunday.

The 764 couples to marry would be the largest number of marriages on any single day in city history.

As of Tuesday morning, the City Clerk’s Office had received 2,661 online applications since July 5th; the Clerk has estimated that 1,728 are from same-sex couples. Officials said the data collected by the city showed 54% of the online applicants planned to visit the clerk’s offices on Sunday in pursuit of a marriage license, and that 50% planned to marry that day.

According to the city, couples wishing to marry on Sunday may register for the lottery by going to the City Clerk’s website or by calling 311. The lottery will open for entries at noon on Tuesday and will close to entries at noon on Thursday.

The city will hold a separate lottery for each of the City Clerk’s five borough offices and lottery applicants must specify only one office where they wish to marry.

Winners of the lottery will be notified via e-mail or phone on Friday by noon. Officials urged couples who win a place in the lottery to arrive in the morning; couples must arrive no later than 3:45 p.m. Sunday.

“We’ve done our homework, and it’s clear that the number of couples who want to marry on Sunday is more than the City Clerk’s offices could possibly handle,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. “And the last thing we want is for couples to wait on line for hours and hours, only to walk away upset on what was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives.”

“The fairest way to determine who gets the chance to wed on Sunday and ensure everyone can properly plan for their own big day is through an even-handed lottery system,” he added. “Nobody puts on big events like New York and we will be ready on Sunday for what will no doubt be an historic and unforgettable moment.”

Couples who have not been selected in the lottery can get married later in the week.

Christine Quinn, the city’s first female and openly gay council speaker, said, “This efficient and effective process for managing the first day of marriage equality in the five boroughs will maximize the excitement and dignity for all.”

NY Gov. Cuomo at NYC Gay Pride

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo at NYC Gay Pride after passing marriage equality in NY state

Now THIS is what a “fierce advocate” looks like.

Just in case a certain President is taking notes…

Via the New York Daily News: As the gay pride parade marched through the streets of New York City on Sunday, participants cheered the governor with signs bellowing “Thank you, Governor Cuomo.”

Two days after New York’s senate voted 33-29 to legalize gay marriage, the annual parade became the epicenter for the equality celebration, embodying this year’s theme: “Proud and Powerful.”

Half a million people were expected to take to the streets.

The Marriage Equality Act was passed in the state Senate on Friday evening, and signed into law by Cuomo at 11:55 p.m. ET, less than 2 hours after the vote. The law takes effect in 30 days.

Done! Governor Cuomo signs marriage equality into law

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed New York’s gay marriage bill, starting what is expected to be a crush of gay weddings starting in 30 days – couples can start marrying on July 24th.

Tonight, the number of Americans who currently have access to marriage equality in their home states or districts more than doubled.

The Democratic governor signed the measure shortly before midnight Friday, following up on a promise to put his name on the legislation as soon as he received it rather than wait the usual 10 days to sign it for it to become law.

New York lawmakers voted 33-29 to legalize same-sex marriage, handing activists a breakthrough victory in the state where the gay rights movement was born.

New York will become the sixth state where gay couples can wed and the biggest by far.

History in NY State – Almost 42 Years After Stonewall, Marriage Equality Passes!

Stonewall tonight – June 24, 2011

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.

The last years of the 1960s were very contentious as many social movements were active, including the African American Civil Rights Movement, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and antiwar demonstrations. These influences served as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. The Stonewall Inn, at the time, was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community.

Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot.

After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community.

On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York commemorating the anniversary of the riots.

Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.

Today, June 24, 2011, NY state gay and lesbian committed couples cross a great milestone to being equal citizens by being allowed to enjoy the rights of marriage.

“I’m not what I want to be,
I’m not what I’m gonna be,
But thank God I’m not what I was”

NY celebrates marriage equality
(Historical details via Wikipedia):