Liberty Counsel Files Two Suits Against New Paltz Mayor Jason West to Stop Him From Illegally Solemnizing Same-Sex Unions and to Remove Him From Office

Mar 3, 2004

Village of New Paltz, NY – Today Liberty Counsel announced it is filing two separate law suits against Jason West, the 26-year old part-time Mayor of New Paltz, NY. The first suit being filed in the Supreme Court of the County of Ulster is a mandamus action to stop Mayor West from solemnizing marriages without a valid license. The second suit being filed in Albany with the Appellate Division, Third Department, is a petition to remove the mayor from office. These suits are being filed on behalf of Robert (Bob) Hebel, a member of the New Paltz Board of Trustees. Mr. Hebel has served as a board member for 11 years, and at one time served as Deputy Mayor. Mr. Hebel is represented by Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel.

On February 26, 2004, Mayor West announced he would solemnize marriages of same-sex couples. On February 27, West solemnized the “marriages” of 25 same-sex couples. He then created an “Affidavit of Marriage” and a “Contract of Marriage” that he posted on the Village’s web site. He said he was issuing these documents “in lieu of a Certificate of Marriage” because the town clerk refused to issue a license. By March 1, the website created a “Marriage Waiting List, with the next ceremonies scheduled for Saturday, March 6. 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 on my mayoral career.”

New York law states that parties to a marriage must “solemnly declare” that “they take each other as husband and wife.” A marriage license must include a “statement or affidavit” containing information from the “groom”, which is also called the “husband” and the “bride.” 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 $50.00 or by imprisonment up to 1 year. On March 2, Donald Williams, Ulster County district attorney, charge West with a 19 count indictment and is expected to appear in criminal court today. Also today, the New York Attorney General stated that solemnizing same-sex unions is illegal.

In addition to the Mandamus, the second suit is filed under the Public Officers Law section 36 to remove West for “misconduct, maladministration, malfeasance or malversation of his office."

Staver commented, “Knowingly disobeying the law is not a game. Rather than the ‘best day’ of his mayoral career as Mayor West exclaimed a few days ago, his indictment and removal from office will prove to be the last days of his short political career. Marriage, is and remains, between one man and one woman.”

Liberty Counsel Joins Forces With AFA Center For Law & PolicyTo Combat Same-Sex Marriage

Liberty Counsel and the AFA Center for Law and Policy are joining efforts by coordinating litigation strategy and defense throughout the country to aggressively defend attacks against marriage. Both groups have made the recent attacks on marriage our number one priority and are devoting our legal teams and senior litigation staff to aggressively defend marriage. If you hear of a threat to marriage in your area, please contact Liberty Counsel at (800) 671-1776.