Thursday, February 03, 2005

rebel without a marriage license

jason west, mayor of new paltz, NY, performed around 24 gay marriages in his town last year. now he could serve jail time because of it.

The rush to write same-sex marriage bans into state constitutions is part of a heated debate that New Paltz Village Mayor Jason West helped ignite last February when he married about two dozen same-sex couples. West, 27, was quickly hit with 24 misdemeanor counts.

But the charges were later dismissed by a town court judge who said there were constitutional problems in banning same-sex marriages.

Ulster County Court Judge J. Michael Bruhn brought back the charges Wednesday, saying public officials cannot pick and choose which laws to obey. He said the case was not about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, but whether West lived up to his oath of office to uphold the law.

of course, that's blatantly false: every state has dozens of ridiculously antiquated laws on the books that nobody has bothered to obey or enforce for decades. simply googling a phrase such as "silly laws" will turn up thousands of sites like this one or this one that catalog the outrageousness of many of the laws still on our books (though the veracity of some of these sites is extremely questionable).

West faces fines and up to a year in jail if convicted on the misdemeanor counts of solemnizing marriages without a license.

West has maintained he was upholding the couples' constitutional rights — and thus his oath of office — by allowing them to wed.

"If I told those the gay couples, 'No, I can't marry you because you're gay,' I'd be violating the state constitution and I'd be violating my oath of office," West said.

Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams said he was pleased the judge recognized his prosecution was not about same-sex marriage but "a public official who made a conscious decision to put himself above the law."

sure it's not about gay marriage... mayors go to jail for up to a year all the time for performing marriages without a license, don't they?

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