West Virginia begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples


Updated: 5:05 p.m. EDT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Same-sex couples are being issued marriage applications in West Virginia.

West-VirginiaCounty clerks issued the applications for gay couples to wed Thursday after Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said his office would no longer fight a court challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman Allison Adler said the state registrar is directed county clerks to use existing marriage license forms until the paperwork can be updated. The registrar is in charge of any alterations to state marriage forms.

Both Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick and Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole said the registrar directed their offices to take marriage applications from gay couples.

McCormick and Cole are defendants in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriages. A federal judge has yet to rule on it.

“We’ve been getting prepared for this, one way or the other,” McCormick said. “We’re ready.”

Cole said marriage licenses typically are issued at the same time that applications are submitted.

“There’s no waiting period,” she said. “They will fall under the same guidelines as marriages have always fallen under.”

McCormick and Cole said no same-marriage couples had filed applications by late Thursday.

Morrisey issued a statement three days after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in July striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages. The court also has jurisdiction over West Virginia.

“While we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Fourth Circuit’s opinion to stand and believe it improperly displaces state and local decision-making, we will respect it,” said Morrisey, a Republican who had intervened in the West Virginia lawsuit in November 2013 on behalf of the state.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he’s directing state agencies to take appropriate action to abide by the recent ruling.

“Our state is known for its kindness and hospitality to residents and visitors alike,” said Tomblin, a Democrat. “I encourage all West Virginians – regardless of their personal beliefs – to uphold our statewide tradition of treating one another with dignity and respect.”

The West Virginia lawsuit was filed in October 2013 by Lambda Legal on behalf of three same-sex couples who were previously denied marriage licenses.

Lambda Legal attorney Beth Littrell said she was “delighted” by Morrisey’s decision.

“It’s a great day in the Mountain State,” she said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers in Huntington had previously put West Virginia’s case on hold pending the outcome of the Virginia case.

On Tuesday, Chamber ordered the state and the county clerks in Kanawha and Cabell counties to respond by Oct. 21 to a motion by plaintiffs for summary judgment based on the outcome of the case in Virginia.

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