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The village mayor who challenged New York law by attempting to marry gay couples last year will face trial, the state’s highest court ruled Friday. New Paltz, N.Y., Mayor Jason West faces 24 misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s domestic relations law by marrying couples without licenses in late February 2004. He faces fines and up to a year in jail if convicted. West’s actions came amid a flurry of efforts in various states to wed gay couples after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed gay couples there to marry in February 2004. Those efforts have largely been put on hold by the courts. West has maintained he was upholding the gay couples’ constitutional rights to equal protection — and thus his oath of office — by allowing them to wed in the Hudson Valley college town in late February 2004. But state officials, including Gov. George Pataki and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, have said same-sex ceremonies violate state law. The state Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, on Friday refused West’s request for it to hear the case without having lower courts weigh in first. “Mayor West stood up for the constitutional rights of people being treated unfairly and unconstitutionally,” said West’s attorney, E. Joshua Rosenkranz. “If he is wrong about that judgment, of course he will stand trial and we’ll pay whatever penalty and he’s prepared to do so.” Also Friday, the Massachusetts high court rejected a Roman Catholic activist’s bid to halt gay marriages in that state until voters have weighed in on a constitutional ban — in November 2006 at the earliest. C. Joseph Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, had argued the marriages interfere with voters’ ability to participate in debate on the issue. He had appealed to the full court after a single justice dismissed his claim last year. In Colorado, meanwhile, Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a bill that would have outlawed workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, while another bill passed into law that extends protection to gays under the state’s hate crimes law. The veto drew strong criticism from gay rights groups, who said it did not make sense for Owens to let one bill protecting gays become law and veto another. “On the one hand, you have the governor saying it’s wrong to inflict violence on gay people, but it’s OK to fire a person because they are gay,” said David Smith, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign. Owens said he considered the workplace discrimination bill unnecessary and said it could force employers to spend large sums defending lawsuits. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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