New York challenges ruling that allowed larger weddings

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WBEN/AP) — New York officials are challenging a federal judge’s ruling in favor of two couples who wanted to have more than 50 people at their weddings despite the state’s pandemic-related restrictions.

U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby issued a preliminary injunction Friday that allowed a western New York golf club to accommodate more than 50 people for the weddings, though the venue has to operate under the same 50% capacity rule as restaurants serving dinner indoors.

The ruling cleared the way for the first larger wedding Friday and a second on Aug. 22. Some public officials and wedding venue operators view it as a precedent that will enable larger ceremonies.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration told the federal court this week they are appealing the ruling as they seek a temporary restraining order. Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said in a filing that allowing 175 guests at the Aug. 22 wedding could defeat the state’s carefully phased-in approach to keep the coronavirus from surging back.

“The COVID-19 Task Force remains gravely concerned that the relaxing of the restrictions the State has implemented will lead to increases in the spread of the virus, resulting in a serious, but avoidable, impact on the health and lives of New York’s population.” Zucker said.

The couples argued that religious ceremonies should not be treated differently than gatherings for demonstrations, graduation ceremonies and restaurants.


Prominent attorneys in Western New York agree that this case could set a precedent for other businesses most hard hit by the policies enacted by the governor.

“But they cannot be arbitrary and oppressive,” Vacco said. “I think that’s where the debate is going to shift to now.”

Whether or not the state will convince the judge to reverse their ruling remains to be seen. Steve Cohen of the Amherst-based HoganWillig Law Firm believes the governor’s executive orders may have had good intentions, but are ultimately unconstitutional.