NY Judge Lets Anti-Marriage Equality Lawsuit Proceed. Here’s Why That’s Good

After New York marriage equality passed, the executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, Reverend Jason McGuire alleged that Governor Andrew Cuomo violated senatorial procedure by holding secret meetings; rushing the bill through the legislature and offering dollars and fancy dinners to any Republicans voting for the bill.

McGuire filed a lawsuit to overturn marriage equality on these technical grounds and this week New York Supreme Court Judge Robert Wiggins allowed the lawsuit to proceed. But that’s a good thing, even if Wiggins did add a few saucy words slamming Cuomo for his alleged hastiness and arm-bending. Here’s why:

Basically the lawsuit challenges marriage equality because of how it was passed, not why it was passed. As such, McGuire’s lawsuit provides no arguments against marriage equality, only against the methods used to legalize it. And while the court proceedings get underway, it will give the media a chance to scrutinize the anti-LGBT records of NYCF as well as their partners Torah Jews for Decency and the Liberty Counsel, both far-right groups that have spent years demonizing LGBT families.

Furthermore, even if McGuire succeeds, his case could get overturned at the appellate level and a ruling in his favor won’t do anything to achieve the anti-LGBT dream of overturning the marriage law in four years nor allowing New York to vote on marriage equality. So while we’ll be keeping our eyes on this case, you probably shouldn’t lose too much sleep over it just yet.

Something worth noting though is that even though Judge Wiggins claimed to disregard his own feelings on marriage equality, his decision still included some very saucy language revealing some bias (emphasis added):

“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. [Cuomo also issued a] message of necessity that allows for a quicker vote, Cuomo had written that continued delay would deny more than 50,000 same-sex couples critical protections afforded to heterosexual couples. Logically and clearly this cite by the governor is disingenuous. 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.”

So basically Wiggins says that Cuomo’s message of necessity created an legislative rush unnecessary because the discriminatory “definition” of marriage had already excluded LGBT families for over 200 years. But by this reasoning, Judge Wiggins would discourage elected officials from rushing to help stop any injustices perpetrated against tens of thousands of state citizens.

Why rush to repeal slavery or offer women legal protections? After all, those racist and misogynist institutions have existed for hundreds of years. Ummm…. no.

Image via basykes

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  • JeffreyRO5

    While strongly pro-marriage equality, I agree with his observation about the message of necessity being unnecessary, and used improperly. There is no event or circumstance that necessitated an expedited process. It’s not like same-sex couples waiting to marry would suffer even more if the decision wasn’t decided quickly, or the case would be moot, to the detriment of same-sex couples, if not decided quickly.

  • Riker

    @JeffreyRO5: Same-sex couples were being demonstrably harmed each and every day that passed without the right to marry their loved ones. If it didn’t happen when it did, couples could kiss 2011 state tax benefits goodbye. Couples with one person in the hospital were harmed when they were dneied visitation. When one partner died, the widow/widower was demonstrably harmed when forced to pay the death tax for inheritence, and children of gay parents were harmed when they were denied services reserved for married couples. Same-sex couples were forced to pay exorbitant rates for their partner’s health insurance, instead of being able to cover them at the spouse rate.

    Yes, every day that passed caused measurable harm and it was indeed a priority. Plus, the issue had already been discussed to death and there were no new arguments to be made that every senator hadn’t already heard.

  • GayGOP

    I live in the area of NY where this case was filed. This is typical of the local yokels in Central and Western NY.

    @Riker: is absolutely correct. We were harmed because we could not get equal treatment under New York Law without the law.

  • Cam

    “”But that’s a good thing, even if Wiggins did add a few saucy words slamming Cuomo for his alleged hastiness and arm-bending. Here’s why:
    Basically the lawsuit challenges marriage equality because of how it was passed, not why it was passed. As such, McGuire’s lawsuit provides no arguments against marriage equality, only against the methods used to legalize it.””

    Um, no, it isn’t a “Good Thing”. If the lawsuit succeeds, which it probably won’t, it could strike down marriage in New York. Just because it does it on a technical rather than other is irrelevant to that, the end result would still be that marriage could be struck down in New York and have to be voted on again as I understand it.

    The Judge also wrote that the court was powerless to alter the rush cuomo put on it because the Senate accepted it. But the fact that he was commenting shows that even though the legislature accepted it, which makes it legal preternaturally, he STILL wanted to bitch about it. This judge obviously has a clear bias.

  • Mike in Asheville

    @Cam: Yeah, the “Good Thing” comment is simply ignorant; then again, this is Queerty not the Harvard Law Review.

    While the judge did have nasty comments about that the governor exceeded his authority to certify a need for expediency, the judge noted that technically, the governor followed the law.

    IMPORTANTLY, the judge’s opinion dismissed all the claims in the lawsuit, except the claim that Senate Republicans violated the open meeting laws. Under NY open meeting laws, all legislative votes, sessions, committee meeting are subject to open meeting status for the general public EXCEPT for party caucus meetings, which can be private. The lawsuit alleges that when the Democratic governor attended the Senate Republican Caucus meeting, that created a requirement for open meeting status. New York (Governor, AG, and Senate) argue that any caucus can invite whomever they wish to attend a caucus meeting.

    While the judge found one precedent involving a county administrator attending a caucus meeting that triggered the open meeting requirements, there are 200 years of precedence that governors (not county administrators) regularly meet with their opposition legislative caucuses — without such meetings over two centuries, there would never be a state budget or many other legislative agenda items passed.

    It is not clear that the judge has a clear bias. Use the links above and read the opinion yourself; he goes out of his way to separate the issues of marriage equality and legislative process. What is clear, it that the judge is offended by, but is powerless to intervene, the maneuvers used in the administrative/legislative interchange. But, the judge notes that, again, technically, the law was followed.

  • Not so fast, Mike

    @Mike in Asheville: That earlier case did NOT involve a political caucus or conference meeting, which are specifically exempt from our Open Meetings Act. It was an off site meeting of roughly two thirds of the members of the Erie County Legislature. That legislature is a public body, as defined by the Open Meetings Act, that requires a quorum to meet and it was conducting public business when it met.

    There is no question that the Erie County Legislature is subject to our Open Meetings Act just as there is no question that a political committee, conference or caucus, such as the state Senate Republican conference, is exempt. You’re correct that there is no evidence that this judge was biased, but there is ample evidence that he is an idiot.

  • They're cracking open a can of worms here...

    If they succeed in creating a precedent allowing a judge to overturn state laws based on his interpretation of Senate rules, then the conservatives are just *begging* to have their entire agenda overturned in the courts using the precedent of this ruling.

  • Mike in Asheville

    @Not so fast, Mike: Thanks for a good catch. And indeed, you are correct, under this basis, there is ample evidence that the judge is an idiot. Good news for our side.

  • Scott Rose

    Where Judge Wiggins wrote that “the definitions” (of marriage) have been in place for 200 years, where would he suggest we look for them? In the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the New York State Constitution? Oh what do you know — none of those documents include any definition of marriage. In fact, in 2005, Judge Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that denying same sex couples marriage rights violates the New York State Constitution. Equality supporters do not say “Our goal is to change the definition of marriage.” Judge Wiggins used the anti-gay bigots’ lingo as his own in this decision.

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