Friday, May 27, 2005

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The village mayor who challenged New York law by attempting to “marry” same-sex couples last year will face trial, the state’s highest court ruled yesterday .

New Paltz Mayor Jason West faces 24 misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s domestic-relations law by “marrying” couples without licenses in February 2004. He faces fines and up to a year in jail if convicted.

Mr. West’s actions came during a flurry of efforts in multiple states to “wed” same-sex couples after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed same-sex couples there to “marry” in February 2004. Those efforts have largely been put on hold by the courts.

Mr. West has maintained he was upholding the homosexual couples’ constitutional rights to equal protection — and thus his oath of office — by allowing them to “wed” in the Hudson Valley college town.

But top state officials, including Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, have said same-sex ceremonies violate state law.

“Mayor West stood up for the constitutional rights of people being treated unfairly and unconstitutionally,” said Mr. West’s attorney, E. Joshua Rosenkranz. “If he is wrong about that judgment, of course he will stand trial and we’ll pay whatever penalty and he’s prepared to do so.”

Before making its decision, the state Court of Appeals refused Mr. West’s request to first hear arguments on the constitutionality of the state’s same-sex “marriage” ban. Mr. West had argued that the high court should take up the issue now because the case was unique, novel and critical to the state.

But Assistant District Attorney Joan Lamb argued that other cases brought by same-sex couples already are wending through the court system, and those couples have better legal status to contest the law because it affects their own rights, while Mr. West was acting as a public official.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court yesterday rejected a lawsuit by C. Joseph Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, to halt same-sex “marriage” in the state until voters could decide on a constitutional amendment banning them. The vote could come in November 2006 at the earliest.

The Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, became the first to authorize same-sex “weddings” with its landmark November 2003 ruling. The ruling took effect in May 2004.

Mr. Doyle had appealed to the full court after a single justice dismissed his claim last year. Justice Roderick Ireland said same-sex couples shouldn’t be denied the right to “marry” based on the possibility that voters would approve the amendment.

“The single justice was correct and well within his discretion” in denying Mr. Doyle’s request, the high court wrote yesterday .

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