Saturday, August 27, 2011

New York Town Clerk Refuses to Validate Same-Sex Marriages, Claims They'll Lead to Human-Animal Marriages

I hate to break this news to Ms. Belforti, but her concerns with the forms used by New York town clerks to report civil marriages now that same-sex marriage is legal in that state are misplaced.  Wildly so.  

Belforti has refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses as town clerk of Ledyard, NY.  She cites her religious belief, what she knows "inside, without waver" through the Holy Spirit that resides in her heart, as her basis for refusing to do the duty she is required by law to perform as a town clerk. 

And, in this exclusive interview with a Focus on the Family group (she has refused to discuss her religious qualms with the local media), she argues that the new form for registering marriages in New York will cause folks tracing their family tree in the future not to know for certain whether a name on the form is their real mother or father, or whether an uncle or aunt raised a child.  

Belforti states, 

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.

I hate to burst Belforti's bubble, but as someone who has done family history for more than 30 years now, I have come across one case after another where aunts and uncles raised orphaned children as their own.  And in many cases, the children took the name of the family raising them and gave up their birth surnames.  And their descendants knew nothing about this until, years down the road, they unearthed evidence of the name change and the reason for it in historical documents.

Moreover, one of the findings folks using DNA as a genealogical research tool are increasingly dealing with is this: as noted Arkansas genealogist Desmond Walls-Allen has often said, "A baby is always Mama's baby but Daddy's maybe."  Biology itself tells us that the child born to a woman is her child.  But the fact that she represents that child as the biological child of a certain man is less, well, ironclad.  It's not ironclad proof that the baby actually is the biological child of the man she claims fathered her child.  As genealogists now like to say, delicately, DNA evidence is showing us that there has always been a certain percentage of "non-paternal events" in folks' family trees, even when genealogical evidence suggests otherwise and disguises the events.

One my family lines is a Dorsey family that moved from Baltimore Co., Maryland, to Lincoln Co., North Carolina, before the Revolution.  Prior to DNA research, descendants of my Dorsey family naturally concluded that we belong to a well-researched and prominent Dorsey family of colonial Maryland.  Our Dorsey ancestors lived among those other Dorseys and used the same unusual given names--e.g., Endymion--used by that family.

Imagine our surprise, then, when DNA research told us that the males in our Dorsey line don't match known descendants of the famous Maryland Dorseys.  Not at all.  And then when it was discovered that we do match--perfectly so--another Maryland family closely associated with the Dorseys.

One of whom, as it happens, administered the estate of a Dorsey whose wife was brought into court after her husband died, around the same time our Dorsey ancestor was born, on charges of having had a child who couldn't have been her husband's, since he had died . . . . DNA demonstrates that my Dorsey family is not a Dorsey family at all, but that we belong biologically to that other family, and probably spring (this happens to be my own best guess, given the evidence) from a son sired by the man of the other surname who administered the estate of a Dorsey man in Baltimore Co., Maryland, in 1721.  

This finding is being replicated all over the place, now that DNA research allows folks to match their genealogical records to scientific evidence that proves or disproves the conclusions they've reached through painstaking genealogical research: the finding about which I'm speaking is the finding that, though families can long bear a particular surname that appears to link them to a particular male ancestor, biological evidence may strongly indicate that the male in question was not the father of the children borne by his wife.  Mama's baby is Daddy's maybe.  To paraphrase the bumper sticker, Non-paternal events happen!

Belforti is living in a very weird 1950s culture bubble, it seems to me, when she assumes that families have always been mama-papa-baby arrangements of the Ozzie and Harriet ilk.  The real history of family life, in all times and places, has always been far more complicated--and, yes, in the U.S., as well, even though we are God's chosen and very, very special people in whose hearts the Holy Spirit resides.

And as to her proposal that permitting people of the same sex to marry will lead to people trying to marry animals, I can only wonder if Belforti's life with cows on the cheese-making farm she and her husband run in upstate New York has given her some, well, downright peculiar ideas.

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