Gay couple who were denied marriage licence given $25,000 in damages
A gay couple that was denied a marriage licence by a town clerk in the town of Root in New York state are set to receive $25,000 in damages for their ordeal.
Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd went to the town clerk’s office in Root in July of last year to get a marriage licence.
However, town clerk Laurel “Sherrie” Erikson refused to process their request and said the couple would need to make an appointment. She reportedly refused to provide them with a marriage licence as she disagreed with same-sex marriage.
Her refusal violated the state’s Marriage Equality Act as well as federal and New York state civil rights laws, according to the couple’s legal representation, Lambda Legal.
The town clerk was ordered to publicly apologise to the gay couple for denying them a marriage licence
The couple reached a settlement last week with the town who agreed that they would pay them $25,000. As a part of the settlement, Erikson read a public statement at a town meeting where she apologised to the couple and said she would abide by her responsibility to provide marriage licences to all couples going forward.
“We feel vindicated and grateful that the Town of Root has realised its obligation to respect our family and all same-sex couples on the same terms as any different-sex couple who wants to marry,” Dylan Toften said.
“We are happy the state of New York supports our marriage and that we were able to not allow this one town clerk in our town to get away with violating the law and discriminating against LGBT families.”
“We feel vindicated and grateful that the Town of Root has realised its obligation to respect our family and all same-sex couples on the same terms as any different-sex couple who wants to marry.”
– Dylan Toften
Meanwhile, Omar Gonzalez-Pagen, senior attorney with Lambda Legal, said that no government official should be able to turn somebody away based on their identity.
“The law recognizes the equal dignity of same-sex couples, and so too must every government official. We hope this serves as a reminder to government officials in every town—no matter its size—that marriage equality is the law of the land and that religious beliefs do not grant a license to discriminate.”
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‘I am sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple’
In her statement at a town meeting last week, Erikson said: “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 licence. I am sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple.”
Last August, New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation after news broke that the couple had been turned away.
“The denial of a marriage license to a same-sex couple yesterday in Montgomery County is an unconscionable act of discrimination that goes against our values as New Yorkers,” he wrote.
“Personally I cannot believe that this could happen anywhere in this country, let alone in the State of New York. Marriage equality is the law of the land, and it has been in New York since we were the first big state to pass the Marriage Equality Act in 2011. I am directing an investigation into this incident to ensure that it never happens again.”