New Paltz ministers to meet with prosecutor

BY admin

March 11 2004 1:00 AM ET

Two Unitarian Universalist ministers, who possibly face charges for marrying same-sex couples in New Paltz, N.Y., planned to meet with prosecutors Thursday. Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey conducted a round of wedding ceremonies Saturday for about two dozen gay and lesbian couples, filling in for New Paltz mayor Jason West. West performed the first set of gay marriages February 27 but is under a temporary court order barring him from conducting more ceremonies.

Ulster County district attorney Donald Williams charged West with 19 misdemeanor counts for marrying couples without a license. His office was reviewing whether the two ministers should also be charged. While Unitarian Universalist ministers have been performing same-sex ceremonies for decades, a potential issue in this case is whether the serial weddings were conducted as religious or civil ceremonies.

The women were invited to talk with prosecutors in Kingston about what their intentions were last weekend, according to their lawyer, Robert Gottlieb. Greenleaf and Sangrey each said Wednesday they viewed them as civil ceremonies. Gottlieb said the ministers were upholding the couples' constitutional rights.

Organizers were trying to finalize plans for a third round of same-sex weddings this weekend. Greenleaf said she would consider officiating again, despite potential criminal charges. Sangrey said it was too early to tell. "I'd rather not be inconvenienced," Greenleaf said, "but one has to stand up for what one believes in. And I believe in this."

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