Criminal Charges are Reinstated Against New Paltz Mayor Jason West for Illegally Solemnizing Same-Sex Unions

Feb 3, 2005

Village of New Paltz, NY – Judge J. Michael Bruhn with the Ulster County Supreme Court in New York reinstated 24 misdemeanor counts against Mayor West for illegally solemnizing the marriages of two dozen same-sex couples. A town court judge had dismissed the charges, citing alleged constitutional problems with marriage laws that limit marriage to the union of a man and a woman. The Supreme Court, in reversing the town court decision, explained that whether Mayor West believes the laws are unconstitutional is irrelevant. As a public official, he took an oath to uphold the law and has no authority to pick and choose which laws he will follow.

Judge Bruhn’s opinion echoes two separate decisions of Judge E. Michael Kavanagh of the Ulster County Supreme Court granting permanent injunctions against Mayor West and other Village officials prohibiting them from solemnizing marriages between same-sex couples in violation of the law. Those injunctions came as a result of lawsuits filed by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Robert (Bob) Hebel, a member of the New Paltz Board of Trustees. Mr. Hebel is represented by Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel.

Staver commented, “Knowingly disobeying the law is not a game. The mayor took an oath to uphold the laws of New York. He has knowingly and deliberately violated those laws. We are pleased that the rule of law has returned to New Paltz.” Staver concluded, “Attempts to disregard the clear law of the land by elected officials should be viewed for what it is – illegal activity. If you break the law, you must be brought to justice.”