Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

SSM lawsuit may reveal government maneuvering

Regardless of how one feels about the law that allows same-sex marriage in New York, one has to be intrigued by the door it may open into the inner workings of New York State government.

This week, a State Supreme Court justice ruled that there is an issue with how that decision was achieved, perhaps in violation of the State’s Open Meetings Law. Acting State Supreme Court Judge Robert Wiggins also questioned the need for a "message of necessity" issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The lawsuit challenging the law claims that Governor Cuomo improperly sent the message of necessity to the Senate for an immediate vote on the bill; without such a message, the bill normally would have had to be submitted to lawmakers three days in advance. The message said the continued delay in passing it would deny 50,000 same-sex couples critical protections currently offered others.

"Logically and clearly this cite by the governor is disingenuous," Wiggins wrote, shortening the required three days of consideration to change a law that had been in effect for generations. Nevertheless, Justice Wiggins said the Senate voted to accept the message, and it was not within his province to nullify it.

The Times Union, which supported the bill in earlier editorials, also supports Justice Wiggins in today’s editorial:
It took a state Supreme Court justice’s ruling in what smacks of a futile lawsuit to remind us of that magnificent night six months ago when New York legalized gay marriage.

You could feel the drama at the state Capitol. Passion was in the air. History was being made. Justice was being served.

And through it all, then as well as now, it’s fair to ask, what’s the rush? Why was Governor Cuomo insisting on a vote by the Senate that night, June 24, on a bill that had just been submitted? Why not the usual process of what’s known as letting bills age for three days?

Those nagging questions are at the core of acting Justice Robert Wiggins’ ruling that a lawsuit in opposition to the same-sex marriage law and how it was passed can proceed.
. . .

Here’s Justice Wiggins, citing the state’s Public Officers Law:

“The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only climate under which the commonwealth will prosper and enable the government process to operate for those who created it.”

There is more here, here and here.

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