The decision by Judge Robert B. Wiggins to allow the lawsuit to go forward is noteworthy because the pro-family groups behind the suit are seeking to have the law declared invalid. New York's attorney general had asked the court to dismiss the suit, but Wiggins declined.
At issue is whether legislators violated state open meetings laws when -- during the days leading up to the frantic June 24 Senate vote -- the Republican caucus met in a closed-door meeting with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The meeting was significant because Republicans control the Senate, and the bill could pass only with some GOP support.
New York law allows some legislative meetings to be closed, such as meetings that include only Democratic members or Republican members. But the fact that the meeting included members of both parties could have made it illegal, Wiggins indicated.
"The Court feels there is a justiciable issue presented whether there was a violation of the Open Meeting Law," wrote Wiggins, who added that he now wants more information from both sides. His ruling was dated Nov. 18.
The state contends that the meeting was a Republican caucus with Cuomo an invited guest, and as such it was exempt. Wiggins, though, indicated he disagreed, pointing to a 2006 case in which a meeting between Democratic legislators and a Republican official was found to be an illegal meeting. He then quoted from that ruling: "It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state" are able to "attend and listen to the deliberation and discussion that go into the making of public policy."
The law passed during the final hours of the legislative session. In one revealing sentence referencing Cuomo, Wiggins wrote: "lear arm-twisting by the Executive on the Legislative permeates this entire process."
Liberty Counsel filed the suit on behalf of the group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. Both are Christian organizations.
"This is a victory for the people of New York and a setback to the political arm-twisters who tried to thwart the open meetings process," Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement. "Discovery will show that the arm-twisting and closed-room deals to force passage of this same-sex marriage law were defiant violations of the Open Meetings law.
Staver added, "When government operates in secret and freezes out the very people it is supposed to represent, the entire system fails. The law should be set aside, and the process should begin again to allow the people a voice in the process."
The law made New York the sixth state to legalize gay "marriage."
Supporters of the traditional definition of marriage warn that gay "marriage" legalization will negatively affect all of society, impacting everything from the tax-exempt status of religious organizations, to the way private businesses are operated to what is taught in elementary schools.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.
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