- Text smaller
- Text bigger
A judge in New York has ordered New Paltz Mayor Jason West to stop solemnizing same-sex “marriages” in his town.
Judge E. Michael Kavanagh with the Ulster County Supreme Court in New York issued a permanent injunction against the elected official in response to a lawsuit filed against West on behalf of Robert Hebel, a member of the New Paltz Board of Trustees, said a statement from Liberty Counsel, a legal-defense group representing the plaintiff.
The 26-year-old part-time mayor began solemnizing the “marriages” of same-sex couples on Feb. 27, performing over two dozen ceremonies total. He then created an “Affidavit of Marriage” and a “Contract of Marriage” that he posted on the town’s website. He said he was issuing these documents “in lieu of a Certificate of Marriage” because the town clerk refused to issue a license.
West, who is a member of the Green Party, thought it was “funny” that he had provoked a fight, concluding, “This is the best day of my mayoral career.”
On March 2, Donald Williams, Ulster County district attorney, charged West with a 19-count indictment for illegally solemnizing same-sex marriages without a license.
In New York, it is a criminal misdemeanor for any person to solemnize a marriage “without a license being presented to him,” and violations are punishable with a fine of not less than $50 or by imprisonment up to 1 year, explained Liberty Counsel.
Judge Kavanagh’s decision stated, “The impact of [Mayor West’s] position, that an elected official may willfully violate a law anytime he or she believes it is unconstitutional, has profound and unsettling implications. This view, if accepted, would mean that the mayor is a law unto himself and would in certain circumstances have power that is simply incompatible with a democratic form of government based on the rule of law.”
Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, commented, “Knowingly disobeying the law is not a game. The mayor took an oath to uphold the law of New York. He knowingly and deliberately violated that plain and unambiguous law. We are pleased that the rule of law has returned to New Paltz permanently.
“All mayors throughout the United States should be on notice. An attempt to disregard the plain law of the land by elected officials should be viewed for what it is – illegal activity that must be brought to justice.”
West’s attorney defended his client, saying he would appeal the ruling.
“We believe Mayor West’s authority to uphold the constitution is more than an empty promise,” said Joshua Rosenkranz, according to the Associated Press. “The only reason these people were denied a marriage license is because they were of the same sex, and the only reason Mayor West acted was because he believes that was unconstitutional.
“We have always known this case will be decided by the higher courts,” he said. “This is just one step along the way.”