Gay Marriage In New Paltz

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It took me awhile to find it -- after reading a dozen stories and even watching an interview by Katie Couric of the New Paltz, NY mayor this morning, this important detail was not mentioned -- but the criminal charges against the mayor have nothing directly to do with marrying gay people, they have to do with the fact that no marriage licenses were granted.

Most stories mentioned the charges were for performing marriages without a license, but they didn't explain what it meant; I assumed, incorrectly, it meant that gay marriage licenses were invalid. But what it meant is that the town clerk did not issue licenses. They never existed in any form. When this mayor said he did nothing wrong -- as he has been doing -- he is either incompetent, or lying.

You can make the argument that gay marriage in NY is legal; I don't know if that's true or not, I've heard opinions both ways, with no facts to back it up (facts with links are welcome!). But that isn't the issue here.

You could also try to say the clerk should have issued the licenses, but that doesn't take away the mayor's culpability in his illegal acts; further, the clerk -- according to the story -- didn't issue the licenses because the clerk believed to do so may violate the law. Until such time as the state makes a definitive ruling, a clerk choosing to not take action which may violate the law is perfectly valid and reasonable. It would be different if this were May in Massachusetts, where the state's highest court has ruled that gay marriage licenses will begin to be issued. There is no such ruling here, and while you can make the case that such licenses in NY are legal, it's harder to make the case to a public official that they are not illegal, that the clerk is taking on no liability for themselves.

Bottom line: the state of New York has not, and should and at some point will, clarify the state law on this matter; in the meantime, forcing clerks to issue such licenses is unreasonable; and in any event, marriages without licenses are illegal.

Oh, and reporters who left out the part about the town clerk are stupid.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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