- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2011

The day after New York became the sixth U.S. state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, two traditional-values groups filed a lawsuit to overturn the law, saying that politicians used a “corrupt legislative process” to enact it.

New York State Open Meetings laws were violated, said New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and Torah Jews for Decency in their lawsuit. There were also irregularities in the Senate voting procedures, and “unprecedented Senate lockouts” in which lobbyists and the public were denied access to lawmakers.

“New York law requires that the government be open and transparent to keep political officials responsible,” said Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing the groups.

“The back-room tactics were rampant in the passages of this law,” he said. “The law should be set aside and the process should begin again to allow the people a voice in the process.”

Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, which supports gay marriage, called the lawsuit “an act of futile desperation.”

“It is ludicrous to think that the Marriage Equality Act was anything but a duly enacted expression of government at its best,” she said.

Gay marriage was signed into law in New York on June 24, soon after the Senate voted for it, 33-29. The victory came when several Republican senators who once opposed gay marriage changed their minds and voted “yes,” assured by last-minute changes in the bill to strengthen religious freedom. The law went into effect July 24.

On Sunday, gay couples and their supporters all over New York rejoiced in the issuance of marriage licenses. Many judges waived a 24-hour waiting period for the licenses, and hundreds of weddings were held Sunday.

“This is a statement that we should all feel good about,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a party in honor of gay marriage, according to the New York Daily News. “I believe the legislators who voted for marriage equality, this is actually going to be an asset for them,” Mr. Cuomo added.

The lawsuit filed Monday in New York Supreme Court in Livingston County seeks nullification of the Marriage Equality Act and “any marriages that took place pursuant to the Act.”

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and its executive director Jason J. McGuire and senior lobbyist Duane R. Motley; and Nathaniel S. Leiter, executive director of Torah Jews for Decency are the plaintiffs. New York Senate, New York State Department of Health, and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman are named as defendants.

A spokesman in Mr. Schneiderman’s office declined to comment Monday.

The lawsuit says pro-gay-marriage politicians were allowed to address the Republican Conference in the state Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, but opponents of gay marriage were denied such access.

In addition, on June 24, “the New York Senate ignored its own rules and at least two provisions of the New York Constitution … to ensure that the Act was passed on that day.”

Senate lockouts occurred on that day, as well as on previous days that week, and new language on religious protections was not debated. Instead, the bill was rushed into a vote because Mr. Cuomo issued a “message of necessity,” even though “there was no pressing state need” for him to do so.

Unless the law is stopped, New Yorkers will suffer “immediate and irreparable harm” because their marriage laws were fundamentally changed “without their constitutionally guaranteed right to participate in the deliberative process and to have a transparent deliberative process,” the lawsuit said.

Ms. Sommer said the New York Senate proceedings, which were streamed live, showed several Republican senators “casting votes of conscience in favor of the act,” while others voted against it.

“The world saw, on television, how the vote took place. We also saw, in the weeks leading up, the halls of the legislature were choked with advocates on both sides of the question,” she said.

“To say that there wasn’t a full and fair airing of different views on the issue is simply ludicrous,” she added. “I am confident that this [case] will go nowhere.”

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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