New York Court Upholds Marriage Equality
July 9, 2012 by Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director
On July 6, a unanimous panel from the Rochester-based 4th Department of the New York Appellate Division rejected a challenge to the state’s marriage equality law. The group challenging the legislation, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) describes their mission as influencing “legislation and legislators for the Lord Jesus Christ” and alleged that the process leading to the passage of the law violated New York state procedural requirements and should therefore be overturned. NYCF had actively lobbied against the marriage equality legislation and filed suit last year on July 25, one day after the law went into effect.
NYCF’s main complaint centered around the closed-door negotiations between Republican senators and campaigners for the bill, including both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, alleging that these negotiations violated the Open Meetings Law. This law requires that the public be allowed access to the deliberations of legislative bodies, though there is an exception for meetings between the Republican senate and invited guests. The court found that within the plain meaning of the law, “guests” included both Cuomo and Bloomberg and therefore, the challenged negotiations were exempt from the Open Meetings Law.
Two other challenges were previously raised by NCYF in the New York State Supreme Court, concerning Cuomo’s issuance of a “message of necessity” and the locking-down of a part of the State Capitol building during the Senate floor debate and vote. Both of these challenges were dismissed by Justice Robert Wiggins of Livingston last November.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman stated, “We are pleased that the court upheld the Marriage Equality Act, and found no defect in the meetings that preceded the passage of this historic law. New Yorkers and all Americans should live in a country where they know they will be treated equally under the law and my office will continue to fight for their rights every day."
The head of NYCF, Rev. Jason McGuire, said the group would weigh its legal options and it is expected that the group will appeal the ruling.
Contributed by McCleary Law Fellow Mandy Finlay
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