Gay Marriage Opponents Sue to Overturn NY Law

by Carolyn Thompson

Associated Press

Monday July 25, 2011

Opponents to New York's gay marriage law filed the first lawsuit challenging the measure, an anticipated salvo that came one day after weddings were celebrated around the state.

A representative of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and a rabbi said in a lawsuit filed Monday in state court that New York's Senate violated its own procedures and the state's open meetings law when it approved the bill on June 24.

The lawsuit claims that the Senate prevented lawmakers who opposed the bill from speaking and that the Senate didn't follow procedures that require a bill to go through appropriate committees before a full Senate vote.

Opponents of the gay marriage law had promised lawsuits.

"We should have an open and deliberative process," the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, told The Associated Press. "If truly the legislation can stand on its own merits then it should be able to withstand being deliberated publicly."

Spokesmen for Senate Republicans and the state's attorney general declined to comment.

Hundreds of gay couples got married starting just past midnight Sunday as New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex weddings. Ceremonies were held around the state, mostly in New York City where the day's celebration was tempered by a protest in which thousands of opponents marched to the United Nations.

On Monday, a mass wedding in Niagara Falls saw 46 same-sex couples exchange vows.

The bill was adopted the night of June 24, the last day of the legislative session after days of closed-door negotiations involving Gov. Andrew Cuomo and key lawmakers. The lawsuit claims that Cuomo improperly waived the three-day waiting period between a bill's introduction and a vote. Such waivers are common in Albany for negotiated bills.

The debate on the night of the vote on June 24 was severely restricted in a manner unprecedented in recent years.

The Senate's Republican majority allowed unlimited time for supporters of the bill to speak, including Democratic Sen. Thomas Duane who sponsored it and Republican Sen. Stephen Saland who provided the pivotal vote. But Lieutenant Gov. Robert Duffy, presiding of the Senate, repeatedly cut off Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a minister who led the opposition to the bill. Diaz sought to persuade his colleagues to vote "no."

The lawsuit also claims that promises of campaign contributions were made to Republican senators who voted for the bill.

Financial filings with the state Board of Elections July 15 showed Cuomo and the four Republican senators who voted for gay marriage received large campaign donations from groups and individuals who pushed for the legalization of gay marriage.

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