SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A federal judge in Syracuse ruled in favor of two New York couples who challenged the state’s limit on the size of wedding celebrations as part of its COVID-19 pandemic response.
On Friday, Judge Glen Sudaby granted the couples’ request for a temporary restraining order preventing the state and local authorities from enforcing a 50-person limit. The case has not yet gone to trial, and the governor’s office points out the judge’s ruling only applies to the cases of the two couples involved.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York, two couples said the limit imposed by the state of 50 people at a wedding violated their rights. The couples also argued that while restaurants could reopen with a limit of 50% of their normal capacity, weddings were arbitrarily limited to 50 people.
The lawsuit contends: “This cap on religious gatherings is enforced despite the fact that
restaurants are explicitly permitted to serve patrons up to 50% of their regular occupancy limits which in medium to larger restaurants can be well over 50 people. In effect, a restaurant with a regular capacity of 200 patrons may be able to serve 100 people on a given night in compliance with the executive orders, but it is arbitrarily limited to serving 50 people if the people are dining there during a wedding.”
The complaint also claims events like the mass protests over the death of George Floyd were not banned by the state.
Judge Suddaby’s restraining order said, “Defendants are PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED from enforcing the above-referenced 50-person limit (under Executive Order 202.45 and attendant regulations, guidance, and directives) against Plaintiffs in the operation of their weddings at the above-referenced venues. In holding their weddings, Plaintiffs are required to comply at all times with the relevant health and safety precautions that have been outlined by the State related to the operations of restaurants, including (but not limited to) not having a gathering of individuals that is more than 50-percent of the relevant venue’s capacity.”
Caitlin Girouard, Press Secretary to the governor responded, “The judge’s decision is irresponsible at best, as it would allow for large, non-essential gatherings that endanger public health. We will pursue all available legal remedies immediately and continue defending the policies that have led New York to having — and maintaining — one of the lowest infection rates in the country, while cases continue to rise in dozens of other states.”
The governor’s office pointed out that the judge’s restraining order applies to the weddings of just these two couples.
The lawsuit was filed by Jenna DiMartile, her fiancé, Justin Crawford, Pamela Giglia and her fiancé Joe Durolek, and wedding officiant David Shamenda.
The case also named Erie County as one of the defendants but was filed in Syracuse because one of the plaintiffs lives in the region.