Little about the judicial confirmation process is like it used to be. Few, if any, of the significant changes can be explained by anything rationally related to the actual process. The answer seems to be that Senate Democrats and their allies on the left are fighting President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees as if they were fighting Trump himself. New York governor Andrew Cuomo has provided fresh evidence for this conclusion.
New York state law allows a wide range of public officials to solemnize marriages. These include the governor, state legislators, and state court judges, but only a small number of federal judges with some connection to New York state. This category is limited to judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (which includes New York, Connecticut, and Vermont); federal administrative law judges and U.S. District Court judges who serve within the state; and judges on the U.S. Court of International Trade, which is located in New York City.
These restrictions on federal judges lead to odd results. A Second Circuit judge who serves in Connecticut may solemnize marriages in New York state, but not a U.S. District Court judge from Connecticut. Under Connecticut law, a federal district judge from New York may solemnize a marriage in Connecticut but not vice versa.
An out-of-state couple may wed in New York state, but an out-of-state federal judge (except, of course, from the Second Circuit) may not officiate. Judges on the U.S. Court of International Trade come from all over the country and many of the court’s cases have no connection whatsoever to the New York state, but they too can solemnize New York marriages.
State senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who has represented a district in Manhattan for nearly two decades, thought she had a practical, commonsense idea. On June 5, 2019, she introduced Senate Bill S6330A, a short bill to allow any federal judge to perform marriages in New York state. Within just two weeks, the Senate voted 61–1 and the Assembly voted 143–2 to pass the bill.
Those following the bill might have found it odd as weeks, then months, passed with no action by Governor Cuomo. Then he shocked everyone by vetoing the bill on Dec. 20. His veto message said: “I cannot in good conscience support legislation that would authorize such actions by federal judges who are appointed by [the Trump] administration.” Because “President Trump does not embody who we are as New Yorkers,” Cuomo said later, “I must veto this bill.”
This position creates results even more jarring than the current domestic relations law. The most MAGAfied Trump supporters in the state legislature can perform weddings in New York state, but the most liberal federal judges in 47 other states cannot. Cuomo’s position is baffling because, though he opposes allowing Trump-appointed judges to solemnize marriages in his state, Trump has already appointed nearly a dozen who may do so because they fit within the current law’s categories.
For that matter, as Krueger pointed out, “since any New Yorker can become a minister online for $25 and legally perform weddings, I didn’t consider this to be a major issue.” That would include any of the 2.6 million New Yorkers who voted for Trump in 2016. Krueger is one of the most liberal members of a very liberal state legislature. She introduced the Senate version of the Reproductive Health Act which, when Cuomo gladly signed it, became the most radically pro-abortion law in the country. Her motivation for introducing the bill to allow more officials to solemnize marriages was simple: “The more the merrier!”
Not so much. Legislatures adopt legislation, and governors sign or veto bills, that any of us may support or oppose. But Cuomo’s position in vetoing this bill just doesn’t make sense. Current New York law already allows what he claims his veto prevents. His visceral, almost mindless, opposition to the Trump administration has created a situation that, depending on your perspective, looks like something between baffling and simply foolish.