Amidst a crowd that consisted almost entirely of supporters, there were less than a dozen people opposed. Those individuals there to protest used religion to make their points, holding signs that read, “Gay marriage is morally wrong,” and “Pray for them.”
The smattering of opposition didn’t stop the wedding ceremonies. By Friday morning, more than 50 couples had already signed up on the Village of New Paltz’s website to be married along with the several others who had previously registered with the mayor’s office.
Before holding his press conference, West said he had to turn many couples away from the ceremony. “I’m thankful that I have the power to wed these couples today,” said West, a 26-year-old member of the Green Party. “Couples in loving relationships like these should be models for all of us.”
The mayor noted that he had to turn couples away from the ceremonies held on Friday.
After the first union between Billiam van Roestenberg, a clothing designer, and Jeffrey S. McGowan, a retired Army major, rice was thrown onto their sunlit faces past the mayor’s head and an overwhelming cheer came from the hundreds supporting their union. People held signs reading, “Equal rights 4 all,” and “Support love.”
“It’s taken 30 years of marching to get to where we are today,” said a member of one of the couples wed that afternoon.
Numerous spectators commented on the fuss being raised in the national media about such beautiful weddings.
“It’s sad how this had to be blown out of proportion,” said Kathryn Alexander, a student at SUNY New Paltz. “It shouldn’t be a big deal.”
Many of the supporters of the ceremonies on hand, emotional in their own right, nevertheless tried to reason with those people on hand who were opposed, but their reasoning ended unsuccessfully.
“Lust is not love,” one of the protesters shouted.
Several supporters, some with tears, responded, “You just don’t understand.”
“This is the only way anything important in history has happened,” commented Julian Lesser, another SUNY student. “It’s the only way.”
Several local high school students were also on hand to show their support, holding a sign reading, “Anti-homophobe.”
One of the students argued that the protesters were spoiling the event.
“I understand that people have a right to protest, but these are marriages and they shouldn’t do it here, said Nick Hasbrouk.
Many in the crowd felt that for all the risks of being a pioneer on such an issue, West has probably helped himself politically in the village.
“New Paltz is pretty liberal and this whole things will probably help him.”
West said he’s prepared to fight a legal battle to wed many more same-sex couples. By Monday morning, more than 500 people signed up on the village website and West said he “won’t stop until all marriages are recognized.”
Ulster County District Attorney filed 19 misdemeanor charges against West for solemnizing weddings without licenses, and the mayor appeared in court on Wednesday evening, where he pled not guilty. His attorney, E. Joshua Rosenkranz from the Manhattan law firm of Heller, Ehrman, made a motion to dismiss the charges and the period for both sides to file briefs will last approximately seven weeks.
In the meanwhile, West plans to continue solemnizing weddings, as early as this Saturday.
©2004 Community News Group