The Freedom to Marry in West Virginia

Winning Marriage: October 9, 2014

Same-sex couples began marrying in West Virginia on October 9, 2014 after the Attorney General and Governor agreed to stop defending the state’s discriminatory anti-marriage ban. The state’s decision was prompted by the United States Supreme Court’s October 6, 2014 decision to deny review of a pro-marriage order from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which set binding precedent in West Virginia. Several weeks later, a federal judge officially ruled that West Virginia's marriage ban was unconstitutional. 

History and the Path to Victory:

  • March 11, 2000: The West Virginia Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples. Governor Cecil Underwood signs the statute into law.
  • 2000-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in West Virginia take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families. Their work shows signs of progress again and again, as anti-gay efforts to amend the Constitution with an anti-marriage amendment fail several times.
  • September 25, 2013: Polling in West Virginia tracks marked increase in public support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • October 1, 2013: Same-sex couples, Lambda Legal and Fairness West Virginia file McGee v. Cole, a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in West Virginia. Read the initial complaint – and meet the plaintiffs. 
  • October 6, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies review of a pro-marriage ruling from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision becomes binding precedent across the circuit, including in West Virginia.
  • October 9, 2014: In response to the 4th Circuit decision taking effect, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announces that the state would stop defending West Virginia laws denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, and same-sex couples begin marrying that day.
  • November 7, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chambers issues a final ruling in McGee v. Cole, decisively solidifying the freedom to marry once and for all in West Virginia. Read the ruling. 
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Fairness West Virginia is West Virginia's largest statewide LGBT advocacy organization dedicated to bringing fair treatment to all West Virginians.
  • Lambda Legal is the United States' first legal organization dedicated to achieving full equality for gay and lesbian people. Lambda Legal was counsel in the McGee v. Cole case. 
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.