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High New York State Court Refuses To Hear Challenge To Gay Marriage

(credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The fight over gay marriage rights in the state of New York is officially over, after the state’s highest court refused to hear a challenge by opponents.

The New York State Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied leave by opponents to appeal the validity of the Marriage Equality Act, which was passed in 2011.

The decision leaves intact the July ruling by a midlevel court, which concluded closed-door negotiations among senators and gay marriage supporters, including Cuomo, did not violate any laws. The Court of Appeals, as is customary, did not explain why it wouldn’t take the case.

“New York State has served as a beacon for progressive ideals and this statute is a clear reminder of what this state stands for: equality and justice for all,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With the Court’s decision, same-sex couples no longer have to worry that their right to marry could be legally challenged in this State. The freedom to marry in this State is secure for generations to come.”

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms claimed Cuomo and another gay marriage supporter, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, violated the state’s open meetings law when they met behind closed doors with the Senate’s Republican majority.

The law was given final legislative approval after weeks of intensive lobbying and swiftly signed by Cuomo, making New York the largest state to legalize same-sex weddings. Same-sex couples began marrying by the hundreds on July 24, 2011, the day the law became official.

Officials estimate gay marriage had an economic impact of $259 million on New York City alone during the first year.

Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a group opposed to gay marriage, said that while this ends the case over what he still considers violations in process and procedures, efforts now will focus on two other approaches.

“First, there’s an election in two weeks, continuing the opportunity for the people of New York to vote on this issue,” McGuire said. He noted that Sen. Roy McDonald (R-Saratoga), one of four Republican state senators to vote for the bill, lost a primary election. “Every time the people have had a chance to vote on the issue, they have rejected same sex marriage,” he said.

The other issue is conflict with individuals’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion, including business people who don’t want to work on same-sex marriages, Maguire said.

“We’re going to see these cases cropping up. That is the next front on this,” he said.

The ruling comes a day after Mayor Bloomberg announced that he will spend $500,000 of his own personal fortune on campaigns to legalize gay marriage in Maine, Minnesota and Washington state, so as to help the campaigns raise an equal amount.

Bloomberg has pledged a total of $325,000 to groups backing ballot initiatives that would legalize gay marriage in Maine and uphold it in Washington state.

He is giving another $125,000 to a group working against a Minnesota constitutional amendment that would strengthen an existing law against same-sex marriage.

“Marriage equality is the next big step in America’s long march of freedom,” Bloomberg said in a statement Monday.

Meanwhile, New York is at the center of the national debate on gay marriage, after a federal appeals court in Manhattan struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional last week.

Over the weekend, U.S. Rep. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said some kind of law must pass to protect marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples across the country.

“You get married in New York, you live in New York, the federal government recognizes your marriage,” Nadler said. “You move to Oklahoma – suddenly, as far as the federal government is concerned, you’re not married anymore.”

Since the state legalized gay marriage, more than 8,000 same-sex marriage licenses have been issued in New York City.

What do you think of the high court’s ruling? Leave your comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)