News (USA)

Lambda Legal files federal lawsuit seeking marriage equality in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A national gay rights organization is challenging West Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages.

Lambda Legal says it filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Huntington on behalf of three same-sex couples and one couple’s child.

Lambda Legal
Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton with their son Drew.

The group filed a similar lawsuit last month challenging Virginia’s ban on gay and lesbian marriages.

In the West Virginia case, Lamba Legal argues that the state’s ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children. The organization says they are denied the legal sanction, respect, protections and support that marriage gives to different-sex couples.

The group also contends that the ban sends a message that gay men, lesbians and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

Plaintiffs is the case are Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins and Justin Murdock and Will Glavaris, all of Huntington, W.Va., and Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton and their son Drew, of St. Albans.

“West Virginia is home for us. Our family is here, our jobs are here, and our community here is a great support for us,” said Michael, a lifelong West Virginian.

“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,” she said.

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Michael, 45, and Fenton, 43, have been together for 16 years and their son, Drew, is 6. Of the other plaintiffs, McGee, 30, and Adkins 32, have been together for more than three years, and Murdock, 32, and Glavaris, 31, have been together for more than two years.

“Every day that same-sex couples in West Virginia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that they are second class citizens and their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect. West Virginia’s state motto ‘Mountaineers are Always Free’ is hollow until all West Virginians – no matter who they love – have the freedom to marry,” said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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