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Charges dropped against mayor for gay weddings
Anti-gay group threatens to pursue further action

by Donald Miller

New Paltz Mayor Jason West following a July 12 decison by prosecutors to drop charges against him for marrying 24 same-sex couples.

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — Following months of heated debate between forces on the right and left, a judge has finally dropped all charges against New Paltz Mayor Jason West who could have faced up to 24 years in jail for marrying same-sex couples on the steps of town hall.

West was among the first public officials in the nation to marry same-sex couples, following San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in February 2004.

West was charged with 24 misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s domestic relations law. The district attorney for Ulster County said he dropped the charges because he believed a trial would be unnecessary and divisive.

West called the decision a “complete vindication” and said the district attorney had been “wasting taxpayer money for 18 months.”

West has maintained he was upholding the gay couples’ constitutional rights to equal protection — and thus his oath of office — by allowing the weddings.

Although New York’s Gov. George Pataki and the state’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have said same-sex ceremonies violate state law, multiple cases have been filed on behalf of gay couples who hope to change the way that law is interpreted.

Criminal charges against the two Unitarian ministers who wed gay couples in New Paltz after West was forced to stop the ceremonies have also been dropped.

Regardless of the decision, the anti-gay, Florida-based Liberty Counsel group is still considering what other legal actions can be taken against West.

“We have not ruled out going after Mayor Jason West to remove him from office,” said Liberty Counsel’s Matthew Staver. “He has violated the law; he has expended taxpayer monies in doing so and as an elected pubic official he ought to be removed from office. And certainly, we are still considering, seriously, pursuing actions against the mayor.”

According to Staver the misdemeanor charges against West could be resurrected at any time.

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