Liberty Counsel gained another victory Monday after a New York judge placed a permanent injunction to halt New Paltz Mayor from solemnizing same-sex marriages without a license and said that the mayor had the duty to uphold the law and not question its constitutionality.
Ulster County Supreme Court Justice Michael Kavanagh ruled that part-time Mayor Jason West, “by his office is obligated to comply with the law and abide by it.” as written in his decision. “A public officer may not question the constitutionality of a statute and refuse to comply with its provisions."
The decision came after Liberty Counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of Robert (Bob) Hebel, a member of the New Paltz Board of Trustees. Liberty Counsel’s President and General Counsel Mathew D. Staver, and Senior Litigation Counsel Rena Lindevaldsen represented Hebel in the case.
“We are obviously thrilled the court realized the mayor's opinion does not override the legislature's decision that marriage is between one man and one woman," said Lindavaldsen.
West had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since February 27 in his Hudson Valley Village. His argument for marrying same-sex couples relies on his belief that “courts have previously held that there are exceptions to when mayors must obey all the laws, specifically when the law violates the constitution."
West's lawyer, Joshua Rosenkranz, said he would appeal.
According to Liberty Counsel, West had found it “funny” to perform the same-sex marriages, saying, “This is the best day ever in my mayorial career.” The Florida-based law firm did not find his disobedience amusing.
“Knowingly disobeying the law is not a game,” said Staver in a statement. “The Mayor took an oath to uphold the law of New York. He knowingly and deliberately violated that plain and unambiguous law. We are pleased that the rule of law has returned to New Paltz permanently.”
Staver used the decision of the New York same-sex case as a warning to other city officials who may take the same route as West.
“All mayors throughout the United States should be on notice,” said Staver. “An attempt to disregard the plain law of the land by elected officials should be viewed for what it is – illegal activity that must be brought to justice.”
Of the 17 cases regarding the issue of same-sex marriages, Liberty Counsel has been involved in 15 of them ever since Massachusetts State Supreme Court allowed the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Liberty Counsel and a coalition of other law groups also filed a suit against the Court and appeared Monday at the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, arguing that the Court should stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.