Livingston County state Supreme Court Judge Robert Wiggins gave the go ahead Tuesday for a lawsuit challenging New York’s same-sex marriage law.
The suit, called New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms v. New York State Senate and brought by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, claims that closed-door negotiations between Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in fact violated New York’s open meetings law. The suit further alleges that, in waiving the three-day waiting period between a bill’s introduction and a vote, Gov. Cuomo violated the Senate’s procedural rules.
Judge Wiggins said on Tuesday that there was at least enough evidence that the open meetings law had been violated to allow the case to proceed. However he concluded that the lawsuits second charge, that the three-day waiting period had been violated, fell outside the Court’s jurisdiction because the Senate had approved the motion.
“…The Court must consider allegations by Plaintiff as true,” wrote Wiggins. “Considering Plaintiff’s allegations, and without deciding matter at this time, the Court feels that is a justiciable issue presented whether there was a violation of the Open Meetings Law.”
Wiggins also addressed the allegation that Cuomo improperly issued a message of necessity to expedite a vote on the bill and avoid the normal three-day waiting period. In his message, the governor had cited the “long overdue” right of same-sex couples to enter into marriages in New York and the denial of “critical protections” to more than 50,000 couples caused by “continued delay” of the bill’s passage.
“Logically and clearly this cite by the Governor is disingenuous,” wrote Wiggins. “The review of such concept altering legislation for three days after generations of existing definitions would not so damage same-sex couples as to necessitate an avoidance of rules meant to ensure full review and discussion prior to any vote. Nonetheless, this Court is reluctantly obliged to rule that that the message of necessity submitted by the Governor was accepted by vote of the Senate, and is NOT within this Court’s province to nullify.”
Wiggins doled out specific criticism over the state’s attempts to have the challenge dismissed, with Wiggins saying: ”It is ironic that much of the state’s brief passionately spews sanctimonious verbiage on the separation of powers in the governmental branches, and clear arm-twisting by the Executive on the Legislative permeates this entire process.”
The state administration is yet to issue a comment beyond reiterating that it believes the case is “without merit.”
Rev. Jason J. McGuire, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms Executive Director and a plaintiff in the suit, said of the decision to proceed: “I’m grateful that Judge Wiggins carefully weighed the arguments and agreed that this case has sufficient merit to move forward.”
“We have said all along that we look forward to our day in court. Now we will have it. The legality of our legislative process must be protected,” concluded McGuire.
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