The Times West Virginian

Headline News

July 1, 2013

Court reignites W.Va. marriage debate

Issue of same-sex marriage likely to resurface in future sessions, elections

CHARLESTON — West Virginians can expect the issue of same-sex marriage to resurface in the Legislature and in the crucial 2014 elections after the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the matter.

The push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman is certain to continue after last week’s pair of rulings celebrated by same-sex marriage advocates. A divided Supreme Court struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples, and in a separate decision legalized gay marriage in California on a technicality.

“I do think there’s an urgency to it,” said House Minority Leader Tim Armstead. “At the very least, it should be taken up during the next session.”

While the Kanawha County Republican hopes Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will consider calling a special session on the issue, Delegate Stephen Skinner questions whether the momentum has shifted away from gay marriage foes. A freshman Democrat and the Legislature’s first openly gay member, Skinner previously headed Fairness West Virginia, a group that advocates for the state’s estimated 57,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

“It lets the air out of their tires,” Skinner said, referring to the Supreme Court action. “There’s really not much reason for a constitutional amendment, except to promote discrimination and promote homophobia.”

West Virginia already defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. It also does not recognize same-sex marriages granted elsewhere, under state law provisions enacted in 2000. Advocates of a constitutional amendment argue that the statutes are insufficient and vulnerable to a legal challenge.

“We don’t know when someone might file a lawsuit or have some other issue come up where a judge can review that issue,” Armstead said. “I believe a majority of West Virginians want it defined as between one man and one woman. I think that means we need to go to the next step.”

Armstead and fellow GOP delegates have repeatedly led the charge to put a proposed amendment on the ballot. But the necessary measure routinely idles in committee each session, never advancing. That recurring fate has sometimes prompted Republican-led efforts to force the stalled measure to the House floor. Democrats have blocked each attempt, arguing it violates the committee process. Saying the 2000 law is sufficient, they’ve also accused the GOP of grandstanding on a divisive social issue for political gain.

The marriage issue has indeed become election ad fodder in recent years, particularly during a failed multimillion-dollar bid by Republicans to capture the House in 2006. It seems certain to play a role in the high-stakes 2014 midterms. After significant gains last year, the GOP holds 46 of 100 House seats and is girding for a takeover. The entire House and half the 34-member Senate is up for election next year. Republicans haven’t had a majority in either chamber since the 1930s.

But defining marriage in the West Virginia Constitution isn’t solely a Republican goal. Five House Democrats, including House Majority Leader Brent Boggs of Braxton County, helped co-sponsor a bipartisan “Marriage Protection Amendment” proposal during this year’s session. Like the GOP-only version, it remained bottled up in committee.

While the marriage amendment proposals have failed, so, too, have attempts to add sexual orientation to laws barring housing and job discrimination. During this year’s legislative session, Skinner successfully had a bill amended in committee to bar such discrimination during jury selection — only to watch fellow Democrats help strip out that change when the measure reached the House floor.

“We don’t need to go down the road of making special laws for anything for unique lifestyles,” Delegate David Walker, a Clay County Democrat and a marriage amendment co-sponsor, said during that April debate.

The Supreme Court decisions have interest groups from both sides poised to weigh in both at the Legislature and with voters.

“These historic rulings do not end our work in the Mountain State,” said Casey Willits, Fairness West Virginia’s executive director.

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, an evangelical Christian group, is a leading advocate of a marriage amendment. It has enlisted ministers from across the state to lobby their local lawmakers and legislative leaders. The group also took on criticism in 2009 for running an online ad that likened same-sex marriage supporters to snipers targeting families.

“Whatever else it got wrong, the (Supreme Court) was right to allow the debate over this most central institution of marriage to our society to continue,” said Jeremiah Dys, the group’s president. “We will continue to encourage West Virginia’s elected representatives to do all that they can to strengthen and support marriage.”

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 22, 2014

  • U.S. outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 21, 2014

  • James Garner Obit.jpg 'Maverick' star James Garner, 86, dies in California

     Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western "Maverick" led to a stellar career in TV and films such as "The Rockford Files" and his Oscar-nominated "Murphy's Romance," has died, police said. He was 86.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Given life term, drug offender hopes for clemency

    From the very start, Scott Walker refused to believe he would die in prison.
    Arrested and jailed at 25, then sent to prison more than two years later, Walker couldn’t imagine spending his life behind bars for dealing drugs. He told himself this wasn’t the end, that someday he’d be released. But the years passed, his appeals failed and nothing changed.

    July 20, 2014

  • Teen’s death puts focus on caffeine powder dangers

    A few weeks before their prom king’s death, students at an Ohio high school had attended an assembly on narcotics that warned about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers.
    But it was one of the world’s most widely accepted drugs that killed Logan Stiner — a powdered form of caffeine so potent that as little as a single teaspoon can be fatal.

    July 20, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

  • For Obama, foreign crises grow more challenging

    Surveying a dizzying array of international crises, President Barack Obama stated the obvious: “We live in a complex world and at a challenging time.”
    And then suddenly, only a day later, the world had grown much more troubling, the challenges even more confounding.

    July 20, 2014

  • U.S.: Can’t rule out Russian role in plane downing

    U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that the United States cannot rule out that Russia helped in the launch of the surface-to-air missile that shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

    July 19, 2014

  • Clinton papers: Of Iraq, bin Laden and Supreme Court

    President Bill Clinton’s advisers carefully considered how to explain the president’s military action against Iraq in 1998 as the House was debating his impeachment, according to records from the Clinton White House that were released Friday. The documents also touch upon Osama bin Laden, consideration of military action in Haiti in 1994 and preparationsfor Supreme Court nomination hearings.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads