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 June 20, 2024

Appellate Court Reinstates New York Amendment For Gender and Abortion Rights On Ballot

An appellate court in New York has ruled that a constitutional amendment addressing abortion rights and anti-discrimination will appear on the November ballot.

Times Union reported that a state appellate court's decision has restored a New York constitutional amendment aimed at ensuring abortion rights and preventing gender discrimination to the November ballot.

The story begins on July 1, 2022, when the New York Legislature adopted a resolution to amend the state constitution to protect abortion access and combat discrimination based on gender or gender identity. The resolution was sent to the Attorney General the same day.

However, the vote for the amendment occurred five days before the attorney general's opinion was issued on July 13. This led to State Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Doyle ruling that the legislative process had procedural violations due to not waiting for the attorney general's mandatory opinion, which is supposed to be given within 20 days.

Justice Doyle's ruling effectively halted the amendment's progression, citing that the Legislature should have waited for the attorney general’s opinion before taking action.

Legal Challenges Lead to Judicial Review

The case then escalated when two citizens, along with Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, filed a lawsuit in October, arguing that the legislative process was flawed. This lawsuit was directed against the state Board of Elections and top legislative leaders, represented by the state attorney general's office.

In response, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue and cited a 1941 amendment that they believed negated the waiting period requirement for the attorney general's opinion. Meanwhile, Justice Doyle maintained that the legislative actions were void due to procedural missteps.

The appellate court, however, found the lawsuit to be filed incorrectly and time-barred, leading to a unanimous decision to dismiss the case on technical grounds. This reinstated the amendment on the ballot.

The proposed amendment, having been passed again by both houses of the legislature in January, was poised for the November 5 ballot. It seeks to secure abortion rights and expand protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and reproductive health.

This move has been strongly supported by New York Democrats who believe that constitutional protection for these rights is crucial, especially following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

However, opposition from Republicans has been vocal. Former U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin criticized aspects of the amendment, particularly its potential effects on transgender participation in sports, stating concerns about transgender biological boys competing against girls in schools.

Statements from Key Figures in the Legal Battle

Justice Doyle emphasized the constitutional requirement for the attorney general's opinion in the legislative process: "The state constitution compels the attorney general to act in issuing the opinion, and compels the Legislature to wait for that opinion unless the attorney general disregard his or her duty to provide the opinion within 20 days. Only then is the Legislature free to act."

Contrastingly, Attorney General Letitia James hailed the appellate court's decision as a significant victory.

"Returning the proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot in November is a huge victory in our efforts to protect our basic rights and freedoms. The ERA was advanced to protect access to abortion care, enshrine this basic right in our constitution, and protect people from discrimination," she stated.

Mike Murphy, spokesman for the state Senate Majority Office, also expressed relief over the appellate court's decision: “We are gratified that the courts dismissed this frivolous case that was brought … to block equal rights right here in New York. Thankfully, this crucial amendment will be on the ballot this November, giving all New Yorkers the opportunity to once again lead the nation and stand up for equal rights for all.”

State Sen. Liz Krueger remarked on the overdue need for these protections to be included in the state constitution: "It is long past time for these protections to take their place in our state constitution alongside those for race, color, and religion."


In conclusion, the legal battles surrounding the New York constitutional amendment highlight the complex interplay between legal procedures and the push for expanded civil rights protections.

The upcoming November ballot will be a pivotal moment for New Yorkers as they decide on enshrining these rights into their state constitution.

Written By:
Christina Davie

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