Jason West is a former mayor of the village of New Paltz, New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, West made headlines by solemnizing same-sex marriages in New York. After an unsuccessful run for the United States House of Representatives in 2002 on the Green Party ticket, West was elected mayor of New Paltz in 2003. He lost his re-election bid on May 1, 2007, to Village Trustee Terry Dungan, and his term ended on May 31, 2007.
Elected Mayor of New Paltz in 2003 with promises of environmental sustainability, Jason West gained international attention, initially as part of the first Green Party majority elected in New York State and later for risking criminal prosecution to marry twenty-five same-sex couples. Mayor West is one of only a handful of public officials to perform same-sex marriages.
Mayor West was named the Best New Mayor of 2003 by Hudson Valley Magazine. He was honored by such organizations as the New York State Senate Democratic Conference, the California State Legislature and community organizations from around the country. He has been profiled in such magazines as the New York Times Magazine, Plenty, Out, The Advocate and Jane.
- Main article: Same-sex marriage in New York
On February 26, 2004, West drew national attention to New Paltz when he announced that he would be performing same-sex marriages. On the first day he performed 25 such ceremonies. On March 2, he was charged with 19 misdemeanor counts of "solemnizing marriages without a license" by Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams. According to Williams, West was not charged for all 25 ceremonies because police only witnessed 19 of them.
West originally announced that he intended to continue performing same-sex weddings; however, on March 5, New York state judge Vincent Bradley issued a temporary restraining order barring West from performing any such ceremonies for a month. West indicated that he would abide by the judicial order while evaluating his legal options. On June 6, Ulster County Supreme Court Judge Michael Kavanagh made the injunction permanent.
On June 10, New Paltz Town Court Justice Jonathan Katz dismissed the charges against Mayor West, ruling that the district attorney had failed to show that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing the marriages, or that the law under which West was charged was constitutional. The district attorney said that he would appeal the ruling.
Involvement in UNUEAEdit
As Mayor, Jason West took part in the creation of the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords in San Francisco in the Spring of 2005. He is one of sixty mayors from across the world who signed the original Accords.
A signatory to the United States Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement and the member of the international network Mayors for Peace, Jason West is also a founding member and serves on the steering committee of the Young Elected Officials Network; a nationwide organization of progressive politicians under 35.
West's entering the gay marriage debate and signing of the UNUEA Accords involved him in national political and foreign policy debates. Opposition against West was centered around whether these involvements were appropriate for a local politician.
West was also ultimately hurt by two proposals during his term to increase the Mayor's salary. The first increase occurred in 2004, raising the Mayor's part-time salary from $8,000 to $25,000. A second request to increase it to $40,000 was ultimately not successful, and West himself cites it as a contributing factor to his later defeat at the polls.
Defeat in 2007Edit
- Interview With Jason West
- Video of Jason West
- Video of West giving gay rights speech at New Paltz rally on June 12, 2005
- West on Gay News
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