New and Venerable Institutions: Wedstock

New Paltz Mayor Jason West and Hank Donat.


Wedstock: On the weekend of May 8, 2004, New Paltz, NY Mayor Jason West visited San Francisco for a series of fundraising events and rallies in support of gay marriage. West, a Green Party member, was hit with multiple criminal charges after marrying 25 couples in his Hudson Valley village on February 27. West said he had planned to wait until Massachusetts started its same-sex weddings by court order on May 17 but his gay marriage agenda was accelerated by SF Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in early February. Newsom's move did not inspire West, who is straight, to take up the issue as is widely misreported. West said some important details also escape most reporting on his case. As the weddings continue in his jurisdiction under the ministry of the Unitarian Church, two ministers, Revs. Dawn Sangrey, 62, and Kay Greenleaf, 64, also face charges of solemnizing an unlicensed marriage. West, 27, and the ministers could spend up to a year in prison on each charge if convicted. While in San Francisco, West appeared with local Green Party leaders Peter Camejo and Matt Gonzalez, was made an honorary Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, and raised funds for his legal defense. According to West, the state of New York's marriage law says that while a person may be charged with a crime for solemnizing an unlicensed marriage, the marriage itself is nevertheless legal.

The writer Jay Blotcher and his husband, Brook Garrett were couple #4 in West's Wedstock East. The mayor declared them "husband and husband." Blotcher is the extrovert in the family, but it was Garrett who blew a kiss to the crowd in New Paltz and found himself in every newspaper in the country in Darryl Bautista's now famous photo. Blotcher later wrote, "When it comes to gay rights, going public remains the most powerful statement one can make. One day we’ll attain our equal rights - not Rove- or Romney-crafted compromises - and we’ll retreat into our private lives and private joys." (More about Jay Blotcher.) 

New Paltz, population 12,830, has an annual budget of $2.5 million.

(On June 10, 2004, New Paltz Town Justice Jonathan Katz dismissed the charges against Mayor Jason West, citing the lack of a constitutional basis for the state of New York to deny marriages to same-sex couples. - HD)

Copyright 2004 Hank Donat home