Same-sex marriage is at the epicenter of the debate between Right and Left in America, and no community is more at the crossroads of this volatile political and social issue than New Paltz, NY. On Feb. 27, 2004, when Mayor Jason West solemnized the marriage of 24 gay and lesbian couples, New Paltz made news. From nearby New York City to Topeka, and from Paris to Tokyo, New Paltz became the small town byline for the big story.
Erin Quinn, the award-winning reporter for the New Paltz Times and Woodstock Times, experienced the unfolding drama from a unique vantage point as a "native" and insider to the story. Pride and Politics: The Tale of a Big Story in a Small Town (Mix Multimedia, Inc.; August 2005; $17.95) is Quinn’s hilarious, poignant and heartwarming account of the historic marriages that rocked the bucolic Hudson Valley community and sent ripples throughout the country.
Like a microcosm for the national debate that raged during the political campaigns in the fall of 2004, New Paltz was often divided by those who supported same-sex marriage and those who did not. Quinn recounts the national media frenzy that ensued, and details how New Paltz was a magnet for all sides of the American political spectrum. From visits by Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy, Jr. and Ralph Nader to MTV and Reverend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel, New Paltz was in the cross-hairs of those with vested interests in the civil rights debate.
With candor, compassion and humor, Quinn recounts the events as rumors first began to surface that the young Green Party mayor would conduct same-sex marriages and the touching moment when Billiam van Roestenberg and retired Army Major Jeffrey McGowan became the first gay couple married in New Paltz. She meticulously describes the legal actions, motions and procedures that lead the court to issue restraining orders prohibiting the mayor from performing same-sex marriages and the controversial charges the Ulster County district attorney leveled against West for violating New York State’s Domestic Relations Law. Quinn passionately relates the solidarity of the New Paltz community when it was invaded by protesting Christians on Palm Sunday and when the hope for a better America almost faded away with the November 2004 election results.
Quinn shares an intimate portrait of her town, its people and the diverse range of opinions and emotions surrounding the weddings. By examining the complex issue through the eyes of her neighbors, friends, collegues and her own family, Quinn provides the reader with a glimpse into the heart of the same-sex marriage issue and why it polarized the nation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Quinn recently received the New York State Press Association award for “Best News Story in 2004’ for her coverage of the historic events in the New Paltz Times. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in English Literature in 1993. She is married to Kazik Trzewik, a French-Polish national who she met while on vacation in Paris. They live in New Paltz with their three young children.
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