NEW PALTZ, N.Y. – More than 500 same-sex couples have signed up on a waiting list to be married in this village that has joined San Francisco in offering the ceremonies.
Mayor Jason West (search) married 25 couples Friday and vowed to continue.
"Absolutely, I'll be doing this again," he said Friday before a cheering outdoor crowd. "I broke no law. I abided by the constitution of New York state and my oath of office."
That's being debated. Although New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (search) refused a request from state health officials to block the marriages, he did not issue an opinion on whether the unions were legal.
"The validity of the marriages and the legality of the mayor's action will be determined in due course in the courts," Spitzer said.
West and the New York Civil Liberties Union (search) say state law does not explicitly bar same-sex couples from marrying. He said his "solemnization" of gay marriage was legal and will survive legal scrutiny.
When word got out Thursday that West would perform the ceremonies, the number of couples seeking to marry grew so quickly that the mayor set up a waiting list. More than 500 couples had signed up by Saturday afternoon, according to the village's Web site.
West said Friday he also had received many calls and e-mails from people who want to marry. He planned no more weddings before Monday, according to his office.
West, the Green Party mayor in this village 75 miles north of New York City, joined San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (search) as the country's only mayors to marry same-sex couples. In the past two weeks, about 3,400 gay couples have married in San Francisco.
"What we're witnessing in America today is the flowering of the largest civil rights movement the country's had in a generation," West told a roaring crowd Friday.
The state Health Department has said New York law bars the issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples and that New York courts have recognized only marriages between men and women. A clerk who issues a marriage license outside the guidelines, and anybody who officiates at such a marriage, would be violating state law, the department said.
Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams Jr. said Friday it was his understanding the same-sex couples West married Friday didn't have licenses, and he advised the mayor that state law bans public officials from performing marriages knowing the couple doesn't have a license.
Williams said he would wait for a police report before deciding whether to prosecute. The misdemeanor offense is punishable by up to a year in jail.