HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Although West Virginia’s Attorney General stopped defending the state’s same-sex marriage ban and gay couples began marrying last month, a federal court on Friday made it official, striking down the ban as mandated by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ earlier ruling striking down a similar ban in Virginia.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Chambers ruled in a case brought by Lambda Legal in 2013 on behalf of three same-sex couples and the child of one couple.
In his opinion, Chambers also offered a critique of Thursday’s ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky, stating that the Sixth Circuit “fail[ed] to recognize the role of courts in the democratic process.”
“It is the duty of the judiciary to examine government action through the lens of the Constitution’s protection of individual freedom,” wrote Chambers. “Courts cannot avoid or deny this duty just because it arises during the contentious public debate that often accompanies the evolution of policy making throughout the states. Judges may not simultaneously find a right violated yet defer to an uncertain future remedy voluntarily undertaken by the violators.”
Article continues below“We are grateful to Judge Chambers for this ruling that officially puts an end to the long fight for marriage equality for West Virginia’s same-sex couples and their families. This decision clears away the last obstacle to marriage equality in the state,” said Beth Littrell, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney.
“Even though the Fourth Circuit’s decision had already cleared a path for West Virginia to issue marriage licenses, this is still a great day for equality. The state is indeed stronger today after the Court’s ruling confirming that all loving West Virginia couples and their families now have equal access to the privileges and protections of marriage.”