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Same-sex marriage lawsuit likely to move on

Jan. 07, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- A lawsuit challenging West Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage likely will survive two motions to dismiss, while U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers indicated a potential willingness to narrow arguments to in-state marriages.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 1, argues county clerks in Kanawha and Cabell counties violated the 14th Amendment rights of three same-sex couples to due process and equal protection in denying their request for a marriage license. The clerks contend their staffs simply followed state law.

Chambers announced Monday his inclination to deny the clerks' motions to dismiss. Their arguments contend a judicial ruling would interfere with the legislative process.

The judge, otherwise, told attorneys he could be inclined to grant a more limited dismissal sought by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Morrisey had argued the couples, each unmarried, lack standing to challenge a West Virginia statute that prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages granted in another state.

Chambers' ruling remains unofficial until his filing of a written order, which he estimates should occur within two weeks. His comments came as attorneys debated the length of time Morrisey and the clerks need in responding to the couples' argument for Chambers to unilaterally strike down the state law.

The judge ruled Monday he will specify deadlines in his written order for any response to the plaintiffs' argument, otherwise known as a motion for summary judgment. It described West Virginia's ban as unconstitutional, arguing it denies the couples equal protection and the fundamental right to marry the person he or she loves. It drew parallels with antiquated arguments over interracial marriage and disputes others regarding procreation saying no law prohibits marriage by the "sterile and the elderly."

Both sides agreed Monday that Chambers should be able to decide the case without trial. Chambers told plaintiffs' attorney John H. Tinney Jr. scheduling such a trial date should not be difficult if it becomes necessary.

Those bringing the case are plaintiffs William Glavaris with fiancé Justin Murdock and Casie McGee with fiancée Sarah Adkins, all of Huntington, along with lesbian couple Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton with their child of St. Albans.

Their lawsuit targets Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole and Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick. Morrisey's office intervened on behalf of the state.

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

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