Cuomo Blocks Judges Picked by Trump From Officiating New York Weddings

December 27, 2019 0 By HearthstoneYarns

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s feud with President Donald Trump has covered all manner of topics, including taxes, immigration policy and whether America was ever “great.”

Now, however, the governor has brought their skirmish to a whole new battleground: marriage.

In an end-of-year kibosh, Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have permitted federal appeals and district court judges from around the nation to preside over nuptials in New York, thus denying them inclusion on a lengthy list of those so empowered, including the governor himself.

And like the decision to tie the knot, the reasoning for Cuomo’s disapproval — signed Friday — was distinctly personal.

“I cannot in good conscience support legislation that would authorize such actions by federal judges who are appointed by this federal administration,” he wrote. “President Trump does not embody who we are as New Yorkers.”

The veto, one of scores that Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, has handed down in the closing days of the year, left Republicans fuming and the bill’s Democratic sponsor befuddled.

“This is the least substantive or controversial bill I have ever introduced,” Sen. Liz Krueger said, adding that she had been informed of the veto by Cuomo’s counsel Friday. “I did not think the reasoning made sense.”

Krueger, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said she, too, had been alarmed by some of the conservative judges appointed by Trump, particularly in relation to their positions on immigration.

But, she said, “I’m not sure my moral outrage extends to refusing them the right to perform weddings.”

New York state law already grants a wide array of traditional clergy and others the power to solemnize marriages, including members of the Legislature, current and former mayors of cities and villages, county executives, tribal officials and leaders of the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

Federal district judges from jurisdictions inside New York, as well as judges from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals — which includes Connecticut, New York and Vermont — are also allowed to officiate. But the power to ask “Do you take …” ends there.

Republican leaders said the governor’s decision seemed particularly small-minded.

“It’s hard to imagine a more petty, small action from a sitting governor, but that’s Prince Andrew in a nutshell,” said Nick Langworthy, the state party chairman.

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The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the veto. The bill had wide bipartisan support; it passed the Senate, 61-1, in June, and passed the Assembly by similarly impressive margins.

Cuomo did not respond to requests for additional comment on his decision. But in his veto message, he said the cornerstones of New York were “diversity, tolerance and inclusion,” and he was adamant enough about his decision that he announced it twice: “Based on these reasons, I must veto this bill,” he wrote, then repeated himself: “Based on these reasons, I must veto this bill.”

It is not the first time that Cuomo has acted on nuptial issues: He has said on many occasions that one of his proudest accomplishments was the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York in 2011.

Krueger, the bill’s sponsor, said her inspiration for trying to expand the number of judges had come, in fact, from a gay couple who wanted a friend — a federal judge who was not appointed by Trump — to officiate a wedding. (In the end, the couple married before Cuomo decided who could marry them.)

On Tuesday, Krueger said she did not intend to reintroduce the bill unless the governor signaled a change of heart. But she added that “pretty much everyone had a way to officiate,” a process eased thanks to online ministries offering step-by-step instructions.

“I actually became a fake minister years ago to marry two friends who met through me,” she said. “My father felt I should have become a fake rabbi, but there wasn’t a website.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2019 The New York Times Company