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New York appeals court dismisses challenge to same-sex marriage law

The New York Fourth Appellate Division for the Supreme Court [official website] on Friday dismissed a challenge [opinion, PDF] to the state's year-old Marriage Equality Act (MEA) [text, PDF], ruling that closed-door meetings between gay rights advocates and state senators did not violate the state's Open Meetings Law (OML) [text]. This ruling overturned a decision by the Supreme Court of Livingston County last year, which allowed the lawsuit to proceed [JURIST report] after a motion by the defendants to dismiss. The law was challenged by New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) [advocacy website], which claimed that closed-door meetings between advocates of the MEA, and Senate Republicans violated the OML. NYCF first alleged that a meeting between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website] and Senate Republicans violated the OML because a senior lobbyist for NYCF and the executive director of the Torah Jews for Decency [advocacy website] were denied permission to address the senators at that meeting. NYCF also alleged that Governor Andrew Cuomo [official website] met with Senate Republicans privately in his home for a meeting that was not open to the public in violation of the OML. The appeals court, however, ruled that the meetings were not enough to violate the OML. It also ruled that even if the meetings had violated the OML, the plaintiffs did not meet their burden of showing "good cause" to warrant the court invalidating the MEA and all marriages performed under it because of such violations. NYCF Executive Director Jason McGuire said in a press release [text] that he is "disappointed by the decision" and will be meeting with lawyers to discuss what actions the group should take next.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have fought against laws permitting gay marriage throughout the US using many different grounds. Last month Preserve Marriage Washington [advocacy website] presented a referendum [JURIST report] with over 200,000 signatures to the Washington legislature, preventing a law permitting same-sex marriage from taking effect until state officials determine whether the proposed referendum qualifies for a public vote. A group in Maryland last month also obtained enough signatures [JURIST report] to challenge that state's law permitting gay marriage in a referendum. In 2008 a New York state court dismissed a challenge [JURIST report] to a decision by then-governor David Paterson to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages brought on grounds that recognizing the marriages conflicted with existing state law.

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