WASHINGTON -- February 3 -- Greens called for national support for Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, New York after misdemeanor charges were reinstated against him on Wednesday for solemnizing more than two dozen same-sex marriages. Mayor West, a member of the Green Party, faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
"We urge everyone who supports basic American values of freedom, equality, and human rights to protest the decision of an Ulster County judge and prosecutors to press these charges against Jason," said Marc Sanson, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. "This is a conflict between an elected official acting on his conscience and some public officials and rightwing activists who confuse their own bigotry with moral values. The charges serve no legal purpose, except to vilify same-sex couples and anyone who supports their rights. We will do all we can to assist Jason."
Green Party members noted that the charges were announced on the same day that President Bush, in his 2005 State of the Union address, repeated his endorsement of a "constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage", i.e. to outlaw same-sex marriages nationally and restrict the rights of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans.
"Mayor West has asserted that he had a responsibility according to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law and freedom of religion, to defy a state law outlawing same-sex marriages," said David Strand, the Lavender Green Caucus's alternate delegate to the Green Party. "In contrast, President Bush wants to remove equal protection and religious freedom with the first constitutional amendment ever to limit the rights of a class of citizens. The coincidence of the President's address and the reinstated charges against Mayor West suggests a growing movement to disenfranchise gay Americans."
In 2004, Justices Judith Reichler and Jonathan Katz of New Paltz ruled it unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in the charges against Jason West and two Unitarian Universalist ministers, Reverend Kay Greenleaf, and Reverend Dawn Sangrey.
"I also performed a same-sex marriage by the power vested in me by the State of New York which also fullfills my oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of New York," said Rebecca Rotzler, Deputy Mayor of the Village of New Paltz, also an elected Green. "The fact that there is a continued effort to undermine home rule as established by the New Paltz courts and reinstate charges against Mayor West while ignoring the actions of dozens and dozens of members of clergy as well as myself appears to be a categorical witchhunt. As members of the Green Party, Jason West and I are also obligated to uphold our party platform which takes a firm stance for social justice and equal rights for all."
The Green Party of the United States supports full equal rights and protections, including same-sex marriage rights, for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex people, and also supports the right of religious groups to make their own decisions about religious ceremonies and sacraments. Democratic Party officials have recently considered a retreat from gay rights, women's reproductive rights, and other human rights and freedoms in the wake of Republican victories in the 2004 election.
"We call Jason a hero and his case a landmark in the movement for human rights for all," said Starlene Rankin, Lavender Green Caucus delegate to the national party. "We appeal to all Americans -- including all fair-minded Democrats and Republicans -- to join Greens in demanding that the charges be dropped."