The mayor of a small New York town who defiantly presided over same-sex weddings last week faces charges that could land him in jail for up to a year.



Mayor Jason West

Jason West, the 26-year-old mayor of New Paltz, was ordered this afternoon to appear in court Wednesday to answer for 19 violations of the state’s domestic-relations law, New York Newsday reported.

Last Friday, West solemnized 25 same-sex marriages and put another 500 names on a waiting list.

West had planned to hold more ceremonies this weekend. But he now faces a possible fine of up to $500 along with up to a year in jail for breaking state law by solemnizing the weddings without a marriage license.

However, the mayor said he will plead innocent at his court hearing and would still go ahead with plans to marry as many as two dozen couples Saturday.

“I’m incredibly disappointed,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “Apparently, it’s a crime to uphold the constitution of New York state.”

Before his election to office, West’s platform promised responsive government, assuring “open hearings where they listen to what you have to say.”

Meanwhile, other officials around the state have considered holding same-sex wedding ceremonies of their own.

Yesterday, the mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., announced she will accept marriage license applications from homosexual couples. In New York City, a coalition of about 50 homosexual couples have said they will apply for licenses at the city clerk’s office Thursday.

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. About a week later, New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid intervened to stop a clerk in Bernalillo, N.M., who began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

New York’s Health Department says same-sex marriages are illegal, but Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson vows the city and its attorney will fight the decision if the applications are denied.

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer last week refused a call by the governor to intervene in New Paltz and clarify the legal situation.

The New York legislature is considering a ban on same-sex marriage, similar to legislation passed by at least 37 states. Last month, President Bush announced support for a federal marriage amendment.

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