New York Appellate Court: Closed-Door Negotiations Did Not Violate Law
ROCHESTER, NY -- The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in Rochester ruled Friday that Republican state senators had not violated New York's open meeting rules ahead of passage last year of the same-sex marriage legislation making New York the largest state to legalise same sex weddings.
"The court's decision affirms that in our state, there is marriage equality for all, and with this decision New York continues to stand as a progressive leader for the nation," New York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said after the court's ruling.
Opponents had argued that closed-door negotiations among senators and same-sex marriage supporters, including Governor Andrew Cuomo did not violate any laws. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms said Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another staunch ally of the effort to legalise same-sex marriage in the Empire State, had met behind closed doors with the Senate's Republican majority in violation of the open meeting law.
The appeals court heard the case after acting state Supreme Court Judge Robert Wiggins in Livingston County ruled in November that he didn't have enough facts to rule on whether the open meetings law was violated. Wiggins dismissed other grounds for the legal challenge brought by the group. New York's open meeting law requires public access to the deliberations of legislative bodies, but Schneiderman argued that the Republican caucus with invited guests was exempt, even if the guests aren't in the same party. In a 5-0 ruling, the court agreed. "In the event that we were to adopt plaintiffs' limited definition of 'guests,' it would be impossible for a Democratic member of a governor's office, such as a budget director, to speak to a majority Republican caucus," according to the decision. Reverend Jason McGuire, who heads New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said the group would weigh its legal options. Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, which represented the New York group, said he expected to appeal the ruling.
"It's a disappointment, because this gives a green light to the politicians to (use) strong arm tactics behind closed doors and shut out the people from the process," Staver said.