20-Year Anniversary of Same Sex Marriages in New Paltz 

Mayor Rogers, Deputy Mayor Wojick and Trustee Susta are pictured speaking about the 20-year anniversary plans Valentines Day evening at the Village Board meeting. Photo by Olivia Christian

The Village Board of Trustees is planning the 2024 Celebration of LGBTQ+ pride this June. This year is special as it marks the 20-year anniversary of legal marriage licenses for same sex couples due to former mayor, Jason West’s heroic act of illegally performing 27 same sex marriages in 2004. 

This Valentines Day was full of love for all LGBTQ+ community members in New Paltz as the Village Board discussed the resolution for the 2024 pride celebration at its third meeting of the year Wednesday night.  

The celebration will be intertwined with another item on last night’s agenda which was the motion to establish Saturday June 1 for the Pride March and Festival. Usually, the festival is on a Sunday, but this year is special given the 20-year anniversary. The committee’s goal this year is to make this celebration the best one yet and to extend it for the entire weekend. 

“The Village of New Paltz Board of Trustees honors our community’s place in American history as the LGBTQ+ Haven community that will forever support leaders who cause big trouble for the sake of advancing civil rights for protecting human rights,” read New Paltz Deputy Mayor Alexandria Wojick, from the Resolution. 

The village is excited to commemorate the heroic acts of town figures like former Mayor Jason West who performed 27 same-sex marriages for the queer community without marriage licenses on Feb. 27 of 2004 in Peace Park, which were illegal at the time. This helped lead to same sex marriage legislation finally passing both the Assembly and the Senate which Govenor Andrew Cuomo signed in June of 2011, allowing same sex couples to marry legally in New York state for the first time.  

“This marked the first of such marriages in the country performed by an elected official as an act of civil disobedience outside of San Francisco, California,” read Deputy Mayor, Alexandria Wojick from the resolution letter she had written, for the meeting.  

Peace Park in New Paltz, New York where Jason West married the 27-same sex couples. Photo by Olivia Christian 

For this, he was charged with 19 criminal counts in which he pleaded non-guilty. “When I got stopped, I got a restraining order put on me within a week which stopped me from doing it again.  So, I kind of had my hands were tied.” said West in an interview. 

West’s illegal actions led to more civil disobedience as other supporting member of the New Paltz community followed in his footsteps by marrying an additional 38 LGBTQ+ couples between March 6-13 of that same year. This was executed by three ordained ministers Kathleen Greenleaf, Dawn Sangrey and Marion Visel at the New Paltz Village. But Greenleaf, Sangrey and Visel were not the only community members to step in.  

“Not only Don Sangrey and Kat Greenleaf of the Unitarian Church. But there was Methodist ministers United Church of Christ, a lot of independent mainline churches. You know, a bunch of clergies and other civil officials, because one of the things that the town can do as appoint a Marriage Officer, an infinite number of marriage officers. A couple of the bills board members I served with got appointed manage officers in the town and did weddings themselves.” said West in an interview.  

 Wojick traditionally takes charge as the leader for each annual celebration. This year she plans to work with multiple organizations to help set up and work the festival. Groups that participated in acts of protest during West’s trial, will be coming back to celebrate with the town. The Pride Coalition will make the award being presented to West on the first of June.  

Wojick is passionate about this year’s pride celebration because it means so much to her. Her freshman year (2004) attending SUNY New Paltz, she got to witness West performing the marriages at Peace Park with her track team. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community who comes from a traditional, Catholic family, it convinced her to call the village her forever home. Wojick and all the coalition members work to ensure the village of New Paltz feels like home for everyone during the celebration. 

“President of the New Paltz Pride Coalition, Eve Papp, made a really good point that New Paltz feels like Disneyland for a few days,” Wojick said in an interview.  

There will also be a party held at Novella’s banquet hall where one of the couples who were married by West will be renewing their vows. There will be more information on their social media. The after party will take place Snug Harbor Bar & Grill on Main St. Wojick said, “It is going to be a pretty cool lineup with a lot of LGBTQ artists”. 

Because the celebration is held while students are home for the summer, SUNY New Paltz is not as involved with the Pride Coalition as wanted. However, the Coalition plans to work around students’ schedules to get them more involved, including hosting events during Valentines Day. 

President and founder of the coalition, Eve Papp, spoke about the main message they are working to spread across not just the town of New Paltz but everywhere, in an interview. She said, “We want to show that we have community and that there’s a lot of support here, there’s a lot of love here, there’s a lot of caring here. But at the same time, we want people to remember that we march for a reason.” This reason being the fight for justice and equality for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

About Olivia Christian 2 Articles
Olivia Christian is a first-year journalism major, making this her first year with The Oracle. She has always had a passion for writing, specifically poetry. This year she plans to focus on media & cultural pieces, and political commentary.

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