Mirroring the defiance of San Francisco officials, the 26-year-old mayor of a New York college town says he will perform up to a dozen same-sex marriage ceremonies today.

Jason West, mayor of New Paltz, about 75 miles north of New York City, contends he is obligated to issue the licenses to homosexual couples because the state law on marriage says nothing about gender, and New York’s constitution requires equal protection.

“We as a society have no right to discriminate in marriage any more than we have the right to discriminate when someone votes or when someone wants to hold office,” West said, according to the Associated Press.

San Francisco, under Mayor Gavin Newsom’s order, issued the first officially sanctioned marriage licenses to same-sex couples in American history Feb. 12. More than 3,400 ceremonies have been conducted since then. Attorney General Bill Lockyer is asking the state Supreme Court today for its opinion. Last week, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid intervened to stop a clerk in Bernalillo, N.M., who began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

Evoking a civil rights-era icon, New Paltz’s West compared opponents of same-sex marriage to “those who would have made Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus,” the AP said.

Yesterday, however, the New York state Health Department weighed in on the issue, stating the law forbids same-sex marriage and that state court decisions have restricted marriage to a man and a woman.

“A municipal clerk who issues a marriage license outside these guidelines, and any person who solemnizes such a marriage, would be violating state law and subject to the penalties in law,” the department’s statement said.

But West told CNN today it’s his opinion that for a marriage to be valid, it only needs to be solemnized by the proper authority.

“I’m fully able to do that,” he said.

New York’s attorney general has not addressed the issue. The New York legislature is considering a ban on same-sex marriage, similar to legislation passed by at least 37 states.

Earlier this week, President Bush announced support for a federal marriage amendment

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