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New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms, Jason J. Mcguire, Duane R. Motley and Nathaniel S. Leiter v. New York State Senate

July 6, 2012

NEW YORKERS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS, JASON J. MCGUIRE, DUANE R. MOTLEY AND NATHANIEL S. LEITER,
PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
NEW 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 opinion of the court was delivered by: Fahey, J.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms v New York State Senate

Decided on July 6, 2012

Appellate Division, Fourth Department

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.

PRESENT: CENTRA, J.P., FAHEY, PERADOTTO, CARNI, AND SCONIERS, JJ.

OPINION AND

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.

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 defendant 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) 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 ยง 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 ...


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