Jason West, the mayor of the little Hudson Valley village of New Paltz who married 25 gay couples last month before receiving a court injunction to stop, has been thinking about gay marriage for a long time. In fact, immediately after taking office last summer, the two things the 27-year-old asked his new village attorney to check on were, first, the state and local beaver trapping laws, since a dog had recently been caught and killed in a beaver trap on the old Bienstock property -- a huge New Paltz scandal that was soon labeled Beavergate; and second, whether a mayor could perform gay marriages. The attorney, Spencer McLaughlin, is a Republican legislator from Orange County and a former deputy executive director of the New York City Human Rights Commission under Ed Koch. That West would turn to a Republican for advice was a surprise to the people who thought the mayor, who was elected on the Green Party line, was a radical liberal activist about to turn the town into a socialist enclave. In his reply to West, McLaughlin noted that the law is unclear. ''That's because the laws were written around the late 19th century, and no one ever conceived of wanting to do this then,'' McLaughlin said recently. The attorney ended his memo to mayor saying, ''That's a very long-winded explanation of why you can't perform a same-sex marriage, but does not address the issue of whether you should or not.''
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