KINGSTON, N.Y. – For the first time in U.S. history, the government charged two ministers with criminal offenses for illegally marrying 13 gay couples in New York, Monday, March 15, 2004.
The two Unitarian Universalist ministers Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey, were incriminated with the same charges leveled against New Paltz Mayer Jason West last week. Each charge carries a fine of $25 to $500 or up to a year in jail.
The ministers will plead not guilty at their arraignment March 22 according to their lawyer, Robert Gottlieb.
"There have been clergy throughout the country for years and years who have solemnized marriages between same-sex couples, and only the Ulster County D.A. feels compelled to haul them into a court and brand them a criminal defendant," Gottlieb defiantly said.
The UU association has been viewed as one of the most liberal of large religious denominations; they opened their office to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders since 1970s upon the dismay of orthodox and evangelical Christians. Currently, only about 10% of their members consider themselves to be Christians and contrary to what the secular media suggests, most Christians do not even regard the UU as a Christian group.
Although these UU ministers have long since “blessed” homosexual “marriages,” this was the first time they were charged because the “marriages” were drastically different from religious ceremonies. Both Greenleaf and Sangrey publicly said they consider the unions “civil,” as they signed affidavits for the homosexual couples.
District attorney Donald Williams said gay “marriage” laws make no distinction between public officials and members of the clergy who preside over wedding ceremonies.
"It is not our intention to interfere with anyone's right to express their religious beliefs, including the right of members of the clergy to perform ceremonies where couples are united solely in the eyes of the church or any other faith," Williams said.
Williams said he decided to charge the two ministers because of the injunction issued by the state supreme court against West, and because the New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer emphasized multiple times that gay “marriage” is strictly prohibited in New York.
The ministers performed the weddings March 6.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, pro-family groups continue to fight against Multnomah County’s decision to sanction “marriage” licesnse to homosexuals. Diane Linn, chairwoman of the Multnomah County Commissioners released a statement on Monday, that "Multnomah County will continue to issue marriage licenses to all couples, until such time as the Supreme Court of Oregon or the citizens of Oregon dictate another course of action."
The Defense of Marriage Coalition, among others, have sued to stop the same-sex marriage licenses and are pushing for a state vote to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Some Multnomah County Commissioners also face a recall effort.
"I am wondering when they are going to read Diane Linn her rights," Tim Nashif, spokesman for the Defense of Marriage Coalition said. "She is breaking the law."
Attorney General Myers has also said that not issuing the licenses probably violates Oregon's constitution, but the state will not recognize gay marriages unless the Oregon Supreme Court validates them.
Portland remains the only state where the “marriages” are sanctioned. All other cities from San Francisco to New Paltz have been halted by legal challenges or executive orders.