By Brock Vergakis
The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office said in a motion Friday that it wants to defend in federal court the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
New York-based gay rights group Lambda Legal contends West Virginia’s Defense of Marriage Act violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Huntington in October on behalf of three same-sex couples and the child of one couple.
The lawsuit says the Kanawha and Cabell county clerks denied the six adults marriage licenses under the state law, and that effectively denies them many benefits that could make their lives easier. Those include shared health insurance, reduction of tax liabilities, family leave, caretaking decision power and death benefits.
The lawsuit did not name any state officials as defendants. A judge had previously given Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick an extension on filing a response to the lawsuit so that Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office could determine whether it was going to intervene.
McCormick’s petition seeking more time noted that the case involves a constitutional issue that “will have far ranging effects for each and every citizen of the state of West Virginia,” and for the 55 county clerks who currently are required to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It also said she has no discretion on whether to grant marriage licenses and no expertise on the legal issues at hand.
Morrisey’s filing notes that state agencies enforce or otherwise execute the laws in question.
Morrisey’s decision comes days after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation allowing same-sex weddings to begin in that state this summer, making it the 16th overall to legalize gay marriage.
Lambda Legal argues West Virginia’s ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children. In addition to its own ban, the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages that occurred in other states. The organization says its clients are denied the legal sanction, societal respect, financial protections and other support that marriage gives to heterosexual couples.
The plaintiffs are partners Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins, and Justin Murdock and Will Glavaris, all of Huntington, and Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton, of St. Albans, and their son, Drew
Lambda Legal filed a similar lawsuit challenging Virginia’s gay marriage ban in September.