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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
New York court backs gay marriage
Gay marriage in New Paltz
West is still currently banned from carrying out any more weddings
A New York court has ruled in favour of gay marriages saying that failure to do so would breach the equal rights laws written into the state's constitution.

In its ruling the court in the town of New Paltz also dismissed the charges against local mayor Jason West who wed dozens of gay couples in February.

It had been claimed that Mr West broke the law when he allowed the marriages.

Mr West and his lawyer called the ruling, the first in New York state, a major victory for gay rights.

Turning tide?

"If history is any guide, this is the beginning of an unstoppable trend in New York," Lawyer E Joshua Rosenkranz said.

But Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams said he disagreed with Justice Jonathan Katz's ruling and would appeal.

Mr West had faced 19 misdemeanour counts of solemnizing marriages for couples without a license and the possibility of fines or up to a year in prison.

Mr West does however remain barred from marrying same-sex couples because of an order issued earlier this week by another judge.

The BBC's Richard Forrest
"He was looking at the prospect of a year in prison"

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