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Morrisey intervenes in case

Nov. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed a motion Friday to intervene in a court challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage, a move that surprised neither side of the polarizing debate.

The action likely enters Morrisey into a lawsuit brought Oct. 1 by two gay couples from Huntington and one from St. Albans, W.Va. The plaintiffs seek a ruling that strikes down West Virginia's law as unconstitutional, bars its enforcement and requires county clerks in Huntington and Charleston to issue marriage licenses to the three couples.

Morrisey's office, not initially a party in the case, states through its motion a specific, statutory right to intervene "for the sole and limited purpose of defending the constitutionality of the statutes in question." It was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Huntington.

William Glavaris, one of the Huntington plaintiffs, said with Morrisey's conservative political stance he was not surprised. He considered it further evidence of the attorney general's lacking desire to move the state forward.

"I try to think optimistically and know that my state won't let me down," Glavaris said. "I love this state, work hard for this state and love traveling around this wild and wonderful state. I am disappointed, but hopeful that our state will make the right choice for equality."

Glavaris and his fiancé Justin Murdock, along with local lesbian couple Casie McGee with fiancée Sarah Adkins, were denied marriage licenses in September upon separate visits to Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole's office.

Nancy Michael, 43, and Jane Fenton, 45, of St. Albans, met a similar reaction in Kanawha County, according to their complaint.

Morrisey, in Tyler County on unrelated business Friday, issued a prepared statement after the motion was filed.

"An Attorney General has a duty to defend a state law if it is enacted properly and is consistent with the Constitution," he said. "We will represent the State of West Virginia in this case and discharge our responsibilities faithfully."

Jeremy Dys, president and general counsel of The Family Policy Council of WV, praised Morrisey's desire to intervene and called upon other state leaders to take similar action to strengthen and defend the state's definition of marriage.

"This is not politics," Dys said, contrasting Morrisey's intervention with lesser involvement of counterparts in California and Washington D.C. "This is an opportunity for the state of West Virginia, through its elected leaders, to defend their laws, unlike the Attorney General of the United States who capitulated to the same-sex lobby."

The plaintiffs are represented in part by Lambda Legal, a New York-based organization that fights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights nationwide. Its attorneys include Karen Loewy, who joined others in welcoming Morrisey's engagement as an ordinary part of any such lawsuit.

McGee, one of the Huntington plaintiffs, was unsure as to the impact of Friday's announcement, but said her focus is unmoved.

"I know Mr. Morrisey believes he is doing his job, but this isn't political for me," she said. "This is my family -- my life -- we're talking about. How can you defend a law that hurts thousands of families on a daily basis?"

Cole maintains her staff simply enforced state law in denying a marriage license to the Huntington couples. She said she anticipated Morrisey's involvement and deferred further comment to her attorney, Lee Murray Hall of Jenkins Fenstermaker. She was unavailable for comment.

Morrisey's motion specifically singled out his intent to defend the constitutionality of three state laws. The statutes ban the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states, define marriage and state every marriage license must specifically state "marriage is designed to be a loving and lifelong union between a woman and a man."

Friday's motion was filed within a 60-day window provided to state attorney generals through rules of federal court.

The Associated Press cited a petition filed by Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick in describing the lawsuit as a constitutional issue that "will have far-ranging effects for each and every citizen of the state of West Virginia," and for the 55 county clerks who currently are required to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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