West Virginia

West Virginia

McGee v. Cole

The Path to Victory:

On October 9, West Virginia's Attorney General and Governor agreed to stop defending the state's distriminatory anti-marriage ban, and same-sex couples were issued marriage licenses in some counties that day.

One month later, on November 7, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chambers entered judgment in the case, affirming that the freedom to marry is law of the land in West Virginia. 

Case Background:

On October 1, 2013, Lambda Legal, with support from Fairness West Virginia, filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in their home state. The case argues that the state's laws restricting the freedom to marry to different-sex couples is unconstitutional. A state statute passed in 2000 prohibits same-sex couples from marrying. 

The plaintiffs include Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton, who live in West Virginia with their 6-year-old son. Nancy said, "Jane and I have been together for 16 years. We live and work together, and we are raising our son, Drew, together. We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but we worry all the time that it isn’t enough. We need the protection that marriage affords."

On June 11, 2014, the court announced that it would stay the proceedings in this federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in West Virginia. The proceedings are stayed while a separate case out of Virginia, Bostic v. Schaeffer, is considered by the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

On October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied review of a federal legal case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Virginia is unconstitutional. Because West Virginia is also in the 4th Circuit, the ruling created a binding precedent throughout the circuit, including in West Virginia. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to deny review, same-sex couples sought to remove the stay in this federal case seeking the freedom to marry so that judgment could be issued and the freedom to marry could come to West Virginia.

A federal judge removed the stay in the case on October 7, and ordered defendants to reply to the plaintiffs' motion for judgment by October 21. 

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