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Senate sued over same-sex marriage vote


Pride Agenda says challenges were expected


July 25, 2011
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a nonprofit lobbying organization for religious liberties, filed a lawsuit this morning against the New York state Senate to challenge the way same-sex marriage became legal.

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The Rev. Jason McGuire, left, pictured here with Sen. Ruben Diaz during a protest against same-sex marriage, is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the way the law was passed in the Senate.
The Rev. Jason J McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said the process was flawed.

"We wouldn't be filing if we didn't think we had a winning chance," he said.

The plaintiffs, McGuire, the Rev. Duane R. Motley and the Rabbi Nathaniel S. Leiter, say the Legislature violated New York State Open Meetings Law, suspended normal Senate voting procedures, denied the public and lobbyists access to legislators and failed to send the bill to the proper committees.

McGuire said there were at least two instances where the open meetings law was violated including a closed Republican conference with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said normal voting procedures were violated when Senator Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, was denied the ability to ask questions, which Diaz confirmed in a phone interview.

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"The governor wanted to be sure that it got on the 11 o'clock news," Diaz said regarding the relatively quick passage of the law once it reached the senate floor. "They violated my right."

Those violations, along with large campaign contributions to Republican senators who voted in favor of the legislation, were the only way the bill passed the Legislature, according to the plaintiffs. McGuire said Wall Street financiers and elected-officials handed over campaign funds in an illegal quid pro quo exchange after the legislation passed.

Also cited is Governor Andrew Cuomo's issuance of a message of necessity that brought the bill to a vote without a three-day-review period — a move McGuire said was unjustifiable. Cuomo wrote in the memo, "The continued delay of the passage of this bill would deny over 50,000 same-sex couples in New York critical protections currently afforded to different-sex couples including hospital visitations, inheritance and pension benefits." McGuire argued that Cuomo used the message of necessity to circumvent the proper public vetting process.

"It is unfortunate that state senators chose to protect their personal interests, rather than the people they were elected to represent," McGuire said. "Some of the players may have changed, but it looks like the same old Albany game. It is time the curtain be pulled back and the disinfecting light of good government shine upon the Cuomo Administration and our state Legislature."

Ross Levi, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said, "The organizations that regularly decry judicial activism now appear to be grasping at straws in filing a lawsuit to undo the marriage legislation." Levi said he thought it inevitable that groups in opposition of same-sex marriage use the courts to fight the new law.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos declined to comment.

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