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Court of Appeals won't hear same-sex marriage challenge

October 23, 2012
The New York State Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied a conservative religious group's motion to appeal the validity of the Marriage Equality Act.

"With the court's decision, same-sex couples no longer have to worry that their right to marry could be legally challenged in this state," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The case originated in the Livingston County Supreme Court last year, where Judge Robert Wiggins allowed the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a religious lobbying organization, to challenge the procedure by which the same-sex marriage became law in New York on June 24, 2011. The case of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms v. The New York State Senate, was filed in July 2011.

The basis of the original lawsuit was Cuomo's use of the message of necessity, a legal mechanism that allows legislation to bypass the normal three-day aging period and immediately moves it to the floor for a vote. If successful, the case could have overturned the New York's same-sex marriage law on procedural grounds.

Two members of the NYCF and Nathaniel Leiter, executive director of Torah Jews for Decency, sued the New York State Senate on the grounds that the process and procedure of the passage of the same-sex marriage bill violated state Open Meeting Law and did not allow floor debate prior to senate members voting on the bill. They said this denied lobbyists and the public access to senators prior to the vote. Wiggins upheld their right to present evidence questioning the legality of the process and procedure of the Marriage Equality Act.

A decision by the Appellate Division's Fourth Judicial, which was filed on Nov. 18, 2011, overturned Wiggin's decision and dismissed the NYCF's first cause of action against the New York State Senate. They said the New York State Senate did not violate the Open Meeting Law in enacting the Marriage Equality Act.

"New York state has served as a beacon for progressive ideals and this statute is a clear reminder of what this state stands for: equality and justice for all," Cuomo said in a statement.

The Rev. Jason J. McGuire, executive director of the New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, reacted to the court's decision saying, "We're disappointed, but not surprised, by today's decision. Every time the people of a state have had opportunity to vote on this issue, they have rejected same-sex 'marriage', but when rogue legislators and activist courts get involved they reject the will of the people."

McGuire noted the lawsuit was filed because of the way same-sex marriage was passed.

"Essentially this was a case that didn't look at the morality of gay marriage, but the legality of the process and procedure by which it became law," he said. "What is most troubling is that the court has surrendered its rightful role as a check and balance on an out-of-control Legislature. It is the last defense against legislators that simply pursue political aspirations, rather than the interests of the people they were elected to represent. This was, simply put, not good government.

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