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New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms v. New York State Senate, 644 CA 12-00313,

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms v. New York State Senate, 644 CA 12-00313,

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Published by Leonard E Sienko Jr
The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, has rejected a challenge to New York's year-old same-sex marriage law, finding closed-door negotiations among senators and gay marriage supporters, including Governor Andrew Cuomo did not violate any laws.
The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, has rejected a challenge to New York's year-old same-sex marriage law, finding closed-door negotiations among senators and gay marriage supporters, including Governor Andrew Cuomo did not violate any laws.

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Published by: Leonard E Sienko Jr on Jul 07, 2012
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NewYorkersforConstitutionalFreedomsvNewYorkStateSenate2012NYSlipOp05455DecidedonJuly6,2012AppellateDivision,FourthDepartmentFahey,J.PublishedbyNewYorkStateLawReportingBureaupursuanttoJudiciaryLaw§431.ThisopinionisuncorrectedandsubjecttorevisionbeforepublicationintheOfficialReports.DecidedonJuly6,2012SUPREMECOURTOFTHESTATEOFNEWYORKAppellateDivision,FourthJudicialDepartmentPRESENT:CENTRA,J.P.,FAHEY,PERADOTTO,CARNI,ANDSCONIERS,JJ.644CA12-00313[*1]NEWYORKERSFORCONSTITUTIONALFREEDOMS,JASONJ.MCGUIRE,DUANER.MOTLEYANDNATHANIELS.LEITER,PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,OPINIONANDvNEWYORKSTATESENATE,NEWYORKSTATEDEPARTMENTOFHEALTH,DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS,ANDERICT.SCHNEIDERMAN,INHISOFFICIALCAPACITYASTHEATTORNEYGENERALOFTHESTATEOFNEWYORK,DEFENDANT.Appealfromajudgment(denominatedorder)oftheSupremeCourt,LivingstonCounty(RobertB.Wiggins,A.J.),enteredNovember18,2011.Thejudgment,insofarasappealedfrom,deniedthatpartofthemotionofdefendantstodismissplaintiffs'firstcauseofactionagainstdefendantsNewYorkStateSenateandNewYorkStateDepartmentofHealth.ERICT.SCHNEIDERMAN,ATTORNEYGENERAL,ALBANY(VICTORPALADINOOFCOUNSEL),FORDEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.LIBERTYCOUNSEL,LYNCHBURG,VIRGINIA(RENAM.LINDEVALDSENOFCOUNSEL),ANDJOSEPHP.MILLER,CUBA,FORPLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS.ItisherebyORDEREDthatthejudgmentinsofarasappealedfromisunanimouslyreversedonthelawwithoutcosts,andjudgmentisgrantedinfavorofdefendants-appellantsasfollows:ItisADJUDGEDandDECLAREDthatdefendantNewYorkStateSenatedidnotviolatetheOpenMeetingsLaw(PublicOfficersLawart7)inenactingtheMarriageEqualityAct(L2011,ch95,§3)andthatmarriagesperformedthereunderarenotinvalid.OpinionbyFahey,J.:ThisappealarisesfromthepassageoftheMarriageEqualityAct([MEA]L2011,ch95,§3),whichpermitssame-sexcouplestomarryinthisstate(seeDomesticRelationsLaw§10-a).PlaintiffsunsuccessfullyopposedtheMEA,andthereaftercommencedthisactiontochallengetheprocessbywhichitwasenacted.Defendants,NewYorkStateSenate,NewYorkStateDepartmentofHealthandEricT.Schneiderman,AttorneyGeneral,StateofNewYork,madeapre-answermotiontodismisstheverifiedcomplaintpursuanttoCPLR3211(a)(1)and(7),andSupremeCourtgrantedthemotioninitsentiretywithrespecttodefenda
 
ntAttorneyGeneral.Thecourt,however,grantedthemotiononlyinpartwithrespecttothetworemainingdefendants(collectively,defendants).Theverifiedcomplaint'sfirstcauseofaction,allegingaviolationoftheOpenMeetingsLaw([OML]PublicOfficersLawart7)[*2]requiringnullificationoftheMEA,isthesolecauseofactiontohavesurvivedmotionpractice.Inthatcauseofaction,plaintiffsseekadeclarationthattheNewYorkStateSenateviolatedtheOMLinenactingtheMEAandvoidinganymarriagesperformedpursuanttothatact.Defendantsappeal,andindoingsobringbeforeusnoneofthepolicyconsiderationsrelativetotheMEAthatlurkbeneaththeverifiedcomplaintinthisaction.Rather,ourprimarytaskonthisappealistointerprettheexemptiontotheOMLembodiedinPublicOfficersLaw§108(2)(hereafter,exemption).WecannotagreewiththecourtthatthepartoftheexemptionprovidingthatpoliticalcaucusesmayinvitegueststoparticipateintheirdeliberationswithoutviolatingtheOMLshouldbereadtolimiteligiblegueststomembersofthesamepoliticalpartyofthepoliticalcaucusthatissuedtheinvitation.WethusconcludethatthejudgmentinsofarasappealedfromshouldbereversedandthatjudgmentshouldbeentereddeclaringthattheNewYorkStateSenatedidnotviolatetheOMLinenactingtheMEAandthatmarriagesperformedthereunderarenotinvalid.Wenoteattheoutsetthatamotiontodismissthecomplaintisnottheproperproceduralvehicleforthereliefsoughtbydefendantsinthisdeclaratoryjudgmentaction(seegenerallyMorganvTownofW.Bloomfield,295AD2d902,904).Inasmuchas"thisisadeclaratoryjudgmentaction,wetreat[defendants']motiontodismissforfailuretostateacauseofactionunderCPLR3211(a)(7)asamotionforadeclarationin[their]favor"(FekishazyvThomson,204AD2d959,962n2;seegenerallyCPLR2001).IAsnoted,thisappealarisesfromthepassageoftheMEAandthelegalizationofgender-neutralmarriageinNewYorkState.Legislationproposingtolegalizesuchmarriagefailedin2009,butin2011fourRepublicanStateSenatorsjoinedDemocraticStateSenatorsinvotingfortheMEA,whichwassignedintolawbyGovernorAndrewCuomoonJune24,2011.AtthetimetheMEAwasenacted,32ofthe62membersoftheStateSenatewereRepublicans.Ourreviewbeginswiththeverifiedcomplaint,whichsetsforthwhatischaracterizedastheseriesofeventsthatprecipitatedthepassageoftheMEA.Inmid-May2011,NewYorkCityMayorMichaelBloomberg,aregisteredIndependent,accompaniedbyNewYorkCityCouncilSpeakerChristineQuinn,aregisteredDemocrat,metindividuallywithRepublicanStateSenatorstolobbyonbehalfofAssemblyBillA8354-2011,whichprovidedthefoundationforwhatultimatelybecametheMEA.Accordingtotheverifiedcomplaint,MayorBloomberg'slobbyingeffortswithrespecttotheassemblybillwerenotlimitedtoMay2011.Indeed,plaintiffsallegethatMayorBloombergmetwiththeentireRepublicanConferenceoftheSenate,i.e.,32ofthe62Senators,inaclosedmeetingattheNewYorkCapitolBuildingonJune16,2011(hereafter,Bloombergmeeting).Atthatmeeting,MayorBloombergspoketotheRepublicanConferenceandpledgedfinancialsupportforthecampaignsofRepublicanSenatorswhovotedinfavoroftheMEA.IncontrasttotheaccessgrantedMayorBloomberg,neitherplaintiffDuaneR.Motley,theSeniorLobbyistwithplaintiffNewYorkersforConstitutionalFreedoms,norplaintiffNathanielS.Leiter,theExecutiveDirectorofTorahJewsforDecency,waspermittedtoaddresstheRepublicanConferencethatday.SimilarlytoMayorBloomberg,GovernorCuomo,aregisteredDemocrat,lobbiedonbehalfoftheMEA.Accordingtotheverifiedcomplaint,GovernorCuomometprivatelywithRepublicanSenatorsattheGovernor'smansiontoadvocatefortheMEA(hereafter,Cuomomeeting),andthatmeetingwasnotopentothepublic.Theverifiedcomplaintalleges,uponinformationandbelief,thataquorumoftheStateSenatewaspresentfortheCuomomeeting,butitisunclearwhethertheterm"quorum"referstoalloftheRepublicanSenators,asopposedtoa[*3]mixofRepu
 
blicanandDemocraticSenators.Forpurposesofthisappeal,however,weassumethatplaintiffshaveallegedthatalloftheRepublicanSenatorswerepresentfortheCuomomeeting.PlaintiffsdonotspecifyadateonwhichtheCuomomeetingoccurred,butoneoftheexhibitstotheverifiedcomplaintsuggeststhatitmayhavebeenheldonJune20,2011.IntheeventthattheCuomomeetingwasindeedheldonJune20,2011,itoccurredsubsequenttotheAssembly'spassageoftheMEAonJune15,2011,whichwasfacilitatedbyamessageofnecessityfromGovernorCuomodispensingwiththeconstitutionally-mandatedwaitingperiodofthreedaysforthepassageofbills(seeNYConst,artIII,§14).OncepassedbytheAssembly,theMEAwasdeliveredtotheSenate,andduringtheweekofJune20,2011therewaswhatMotleydescribesasan"unprecedented"denialofpublicaccesstotheRepublicanSenators.Plaintiffsallegethat,onTuesday,June21,2011,lobbyistsandactivistswerelockedoutoftheSenatelobbyandthat,onJune22and23,2011,theSenatelobbywasonlypartiallyreopenedtolegislativestaffandlobbyists.OnFriday,June24,2011,thelockoutresumed,therebypreventingthepublicfromaccessingtheSenatelobbyandtheRepublicansideoftheSenatechamber.Moreover,theRepublicanSenatorsallegedlyturnedofftheircellphonesonJune24,2011andmetforfivehoursonthatdatewithoutprovidingforaccesstostafforthepublic.TheMEAwasamendedonJune24,2011(hereafter,Bill)toincludelimitedprotectionsforcertainreligiousentities(seeL2011,ch95,§3),andGovernorCuomoissuedmessagesofnecessitytotheAssemblyandtheSenatewithrespecttotheBillonthatdate,againdispensingwithoneoftheconstitutionalrequirementsforenactingabillintolaw.TheBill,nowidentifiedasA8520-2011,passedtheAssembly,andthereafterwaspassedbytheSenateinaregularsessionbyavoteof33to29.GovernorCuomosignedtheBillintolawonJune24,2011at11:15p.m.IIPlaintiffscommencedthisactionapproximatelyonemonthaftertheMEAwasenacted.Inadditiontoprovidingthebasisfortheforegoingfactualsummary,theverifiedcomplaintassertedthreecausesofactionagainstdefendantsanddefendantAttorneyGeneral.Ourconcernrestswiththefirstcauseofaction,whichallegestheviolationoftheOMLarisingfromthepurportedconductofbusinessofapublicbodyinaclosedsessionandseeksadeclarationnullifyingtheMEApursuanttoPublicOfficersLaw§107andvoidinganymarriagesthatwereperformedpursuanttothatact.ThesecondcauseofactionchallengesGovernorCuomo'sissuanceofthesubjectmessagesofnecessityasultravires,whilethethirdcauseofactionallegesthatdefendantsdeprivedplaintiffsoftheirconstitutionalrighttofreedomofspeech.Asnoted,inlieuofananswerdefendantsmovedtodismisstheverifiedcomplaintpursuanttoCPLR3211(a)(1)and(7).ThecourtgrantedthemotioninitsentiretywithrespecttodefendantAttorneyGeneraland,withrespecttodefendants,thecourtdismissedonlythesecondandthirdcausesofaction,reasoningthatthereisajusticiableissuewhethertheOMLwasviolated,asallegedinthefirstcauseofaction.IIIBeforeturningtotheprimaryissueonappeal,webrieflyconsidertwopreliminarypointsoffarlesssignificance.First,"althoughdefendant[s]purport[]toappealfromeachandeverypart'ofthe[judgment],[theyare]notaggrievedbythoseparts...granting[their]motioninpart[*4]andthusmaynotappealtherefrom"(K.J.D.E.Corp.vHartfordFireIns.Co.,89AD3d1531,1532;seeViscosivPreferredMut.Ins.Co.,87AD3d1307,1307,lvdenied18NY3d802).Putdifferently,defendantsmayappealfromthejudgmentonlytotheextentthatitde

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