Ashton Marra Published

What Does the U.S. Supreme Court's Inaction Mean for Gay Marriage in W.Va.?


When the United States Supreme Court ruled Monday not to consider the appeals before them against lower courts’ same sex marriage rulings that meant five new states could now issues marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. 

But that list of five states, Virginia, Utah, Indiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, does not include West Virginia. Well, at least not explicitly.

“It also is likely to mean that in the six additional states in the 4th and 7th and 10th judicial circuits, we are likely to soon see the ability of same sex couples to marry,” Jon Davidson, legal director with Lamdba Legal said during an informational conference call Monday night.

West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and North and South Carolina make up the 4th Judicial Circuit on the federal appellate court level, meaning a the ruling that Virginia’s same sex marriage ban is unconstitutional will now have legal implications in all of the other states in the circuit.

The final ruling on that, though, is left up to Federal District Court Judge Robert Chambers in Huntington. Chambers put a case challenging West Virginia’s same sex marriage ban on hold earlier this year saying he wanted to wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Virginia case.

Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal’s national marriage project director, said the organization immediately began filing documents in the West Virginia case asking the judge to rule against the ban.

A member of Chambers’ staff reportedly said Monday he would not immediately issue an opinion, but did not estimate when a final judgment would be released.

So, in West Virginia, the statute that defines marriage as between a man and a woman still stands and courts must uphold the law, but Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider said he believes it’s just a matter of time before gay and lesbian couples in the state are afforded the same rights as straight couples.

“It’s just the right thing to do given the fact that so much of the country is now opening its doors to marriage equality,” Schneider said. “It’s well past time for West Virginia to do the same.”

In a press release Tuesday, Allen White, president of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, a conservative policy group who lobbies the state legislature on social issues, said the court’s decision cost people of faith their First Amendment rights.

“Over the last 15 years, more than 40 million Americans in more than 30 states have voted at the ballot box to define marriage as one man and one woman,” White said, “and in the last 12 months some U.S. judges have attempted to erase those votes.”