WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week’s ruling from a federal appeals court that found Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional could have a ripple effect in West Virginia. The exact impact of that ruling, though, was not immediately clear.
On Monday, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. issued a 2-1 ruling that said, under the Constitution, gay men and lesbians do have a right to marry. “Inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” the Court wrote.
Supporters of Virginia’s ban on marriages between same sex couples now have 21 days to file an appeal with the full 4th Circuit or with the U.S. Supreme Court.
West Virginia is part of the 4th Circuit and legal challenges from three same-sex couples — two from Cabell County and one from Kanawha County — on West Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages have been on hold. U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers, who is considering those challenges, issued a stay pending the ruling from the appeals court.
Kelly Kimble, board chair of Fairness West Virginia, called Monday a “historic day for all Mountaineers.” “The 4th Circuit Court’s ruling is truly about love, fairness and family values. This ruling is a victory for the countless families that have over and over again been denied equality under West Virginia state law,” Kimble said.
Fairness West Virginia is the statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenderal advocacy organization.
The Virginia case is one of several the U.S. Supreme Court could take up for consideration late this year or early next year.
Mark Herring, the Democratic Attorney General in Virginia, has said he thinks Virginia’s marriage restrictions are unconstitutional, so he has not been part of efforts to uphold the law. Instead, two circuit clerks are defending the issuance of marriage licenses only to heterosexual couples.
In addition to West Virginia and Virginia, the 4th Circuit includes North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland. Same-sex marriages are already legal in Maryland.