Casualty of History

Posted: February 23, 2011 by danieljtorres in Uncategorized

Today the Justice Department announced that it would no longer try cases under the Defense of Marriage Act. This law stated that the federal government would not recognize same sex marriages. By not trying these cases the President is essentially saying that not recognizing these marriages is unconstitutional. I am tad bit surprised by how little coverage this got today. When I heard the news a shiver went up my spine. People always talk about where they were when they found out Kennedy was shot or when they heard about September 11th. This was event was nowhere near that magnitude but I will never forget where I was when I heard the news.

I had just finished taking pictures for my friend Jason West on Main Street of New Paltz. The pictures are for his mayoral run. I had gone back to his apartment to look at the pictures with him. His apartment wasn’t very big. Jason is in his early thirties and his apartment looked like a mix between a college dorm and a professor’s office. Papers littered the desk and awards from various groups were being used as paper weights. Books lined the walls, I saw Nome Chomsky, books about anarchy and  revolution, the Gospel of Judas, and even a Boys Scout manual, and every book looked like it had been read. A pop art picture of Abraham Lincoln was also very noticeable.

Jason, a house painter, had various pieces of art randomly scattered around the room. That’s when the phone rang and a reporter was on the other line. After a few minutes Jason came in and told me the news. Although he didn’t show it, I wondered if in the back of his head if he thought that he played a role in today’s decision. I am proud to call Jason a friend of mine and as I looked around his apartment again at his humble living I realized how history changes and sometimes there are even causalities while that happens.

Way back in 2004 my friend Jason was the newly elected Mayor of New Paltz. He was just twenty-six which made him one of the youngest mayors in the country and he had become one of the first people to ever be elected as a member of the Green Party. He had been a SUNY New Paltz student who ran for Mayor and beat an incumbent of nearly twenty years.

Jason did a lot during his time as Mayor but he will forever be remembered as the first person to conduct a same-sex marriage. Jason performed twenty plus weddings before he was arrested. His action made him a national celebrity. He was named one of People Magazines Most Eligible Bachelors, he got a book deal, Steven Spielberg tried to buy his life story, and then President George W. Bush gave a “no comment” on the issue.

Way back in 2004 we looked at this social issue very differently than we do today. In my opinion had Jason done what he did in 2004 today it would be a very different story. Jason lost his re-election bid in 2007. He will make a go for it again in 2011 and I have to wonder if Jason is a casualty to history.



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