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The fight for same-sex marriage has come to West Virginia with a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court in Huntington. Currently the state defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Three same-sex couples filed suit yesterday morning in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The lawsuit seeks the freedom to marry for three couples all from the surrounding Huntington area. One of those couples is Justin Murdock and William Glavaris. Murdock said they are glad to see things start to happen.
“We feel hopeful and obviously this is a big step and I am happy that this step has come to West Virginia and I think it’s about time. With the legal challenges I’ll be the first one to tell you that I don’t understand all of them, but I trust our lawyers and I know they’ve come here for a reason and their confidence makes me confident,” Murdock said.
The three couples are represented by Lambda Legal, a national organization seeking equality and pro bono by co-counsels from the Tinney Law Firm and Jenner and Block. Their reasoning is simple they said, to get the same rights afforded to marriages that include a man and a woman in the state.
Casey Willits is the Executive Director of Fairness West Virginia and says it’s a big day in the state.
“The effort to win freedom to marry has really come home to the Mountain State, it is now an issue in federal court here in West Virginia and that provides the way forward for LGBT West Virginian’s, particularly for same-sex couples who want to get married to protect their family and protect their relationship, but it really brings home the effort right here to the Mountain State,” Willits said.
Willits said he sees no better time than right now to file this type of suit in the state.
“I think the state is ready to acknowledge that in the federal constitution that there are these equal liberties and these protections. I think they’re ready to hear that truly it is only fair to provide the freedom to marry to all West Virginia couples,” Willits said.
Beth Littrell is an attorney for Lambda Legal in its Southern Regional Office. She said they have fought successful cases in Iowa and California, but have also had cases that didn’t go their direction. She says they are confident that the environment is right for their case to be successful in West Virginia.
“We think that West Virginia is a place in which the values of fairness and liberty and especially freedom will ring in the courtrooms and we feel confident. We would not have brought this case if we didn’t think it was likely that we would win,” Littrell said.
The other two couples named in the lawsuit are Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton along with their six-year old son Drew and Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins.
Littrell said same-sex couples in the state deserve certain rights they do not currently receive. West Virginia law does not recognize same sex marriage. Additionally, the state legislature has never passed an anti-discrimination bill to protect gays and lesbians in the workplace and housing.
“This is a federal constitutional challenge and the United States Constitution guarantees certain protections and promises and West Virginians deserve those protections and promises, so we think the state in this lawsuit will be successful,” Littrell said.
Casie McGee said it as simple as wanting to be able to help those that have become family to them.
“As family you want to take care of each other and we just keep running into these road blocks,” McGee said.