Jason West, the 26-year-old mayor of New Paltz, N.Y., says he will perform same-sex marriages in this college town starting Friday, Newsday reports.
"We as a society have no right to discriminate in marriage any more than we have the right to discriminate when someone votes or when someone wants to hold office," West said in a phone interview with the newspaper. "The people who would forbid gays from marrying in this country are those who would have made Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus."
West, who was elected last year as a Green Party candidate, will solemnize the marriages without marriage licenses being issued. West said he believes New York state law gives him the power to marry the couples. New York's attorney general has not issued a ruling on the question.
Officials at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund agree: "New York law says that a marriage should not be void just because no license was issued," said David Buckel, director of Lambda's Marriage Project. "When democratically elected public officials swear to uphold the constitution and treat everyone equally, that promise includes lesbians and gay men. It's encouraging to see elected officials take their duty seriously."
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the newspaper that nothing specifically outlaws the ceremonies. "Bravo, bravo for the mayor," she said. "Equal rights for gay couples is long overdue. They are entitled to equal treatment under the law, including the right to marry and the family protections enjoyed by heterosexual couples."