Andrew Cuomo
New York Court Throws Out Challenge to Marriage Equality Law

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com October 23 2012 1:09 PM ET

 

The top court in New York declined to hear a challenge to the state’s marriage equality law Tuesday in a move that appeared to end any immediate legal threats to the measure passed last year.

Gannett Albany reports the state's Court of Appeals tossed out the challenge brought by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a conservative religious group that lobbied against the law’s passage. Its lawsuit challenged the law on procedural grounds, with claims that the Republican-controlled state Senate had violated the state’s open meetings law by meeting behind closed doors to discuss the legislation with advocates such as New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

Last November a state Supreme Court judge in Livingston County ruled the lawsuit could proceed, but the Appellate Division unanimously rejected the challenge earlier this year. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms then appealed to the state’s highest court.

In his opinion last year, Judge Robert Wiggins of state Supreme Court in Livingston County said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed for the passage of the legislation, used “arm-twisting” tactics against the legislative branch.

Governor Cuomo issued a statement Tuesday saying the Court of Appeals denial meant the law would be “secure for generations to come.”

“Today, the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, denied leave to appeal the validity of the Marriage Equality Act, which affords same-sex couples in this state the right to marry,” he said. “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. 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. The freedom to marry in this state is secure for generations to come.”

Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, told Gannett Albany that the high court’s decision meant lawsuits challenging the marriage equality law on constitutional grounds “will begin to crop up.”

“We are disappointed,” he said. “Essentially we now have a court that says that they are going to not serve their proper role of a check and balance on a legislature that has gone rogue. That’s a concern.”

The New York State Court of Appeals has played a pivotal role in the campaign for marriage equality over the long term. The high court upheld the exclusion of same-sex couples from the state’s marriage law in a 4-2 ruling in 2006, prompting advocates to turn to the legislature for a remedy.