WASHINGTON — Marriage equality came to West Virginia on Thursday, following a decision by the state's attorney general to stop defending the state's ban on same-sex couples' marriages.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey first issued a statement early Thursday afternoon announcing that his office was done defending the ban.
Referencing the Supreme Court's action denying further review of the case challenging Virgina's ban on same-sex couples' marriages, Morrisey said, "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."
Later, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a further statement detailing the enforcement plans for the start of marriage equality in the state.
"As the attorney general stated today, recent rulings by several federal courts, combined with the refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this issue, make it clear that laws banning same-sex marriage have been declared unconstitutional. I do not plan to take any actions that would seek to overturn the courts' decisions," Tomblin said in the statement. "West Virginia will uphold the law according to these rulings, and I have directed state agencies to take appropriate action to make that possible."
By 2:45 p.m., the Kanawha County clerk was ready to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, per one report.
Freedom to Marry later tweeted a picture of a couple — Chris Bostic and David Epp — applying for a license there:
Later, The Herald-Dispatch posted video of another couple — Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins — who the paper reported were married in Cabell County, another West Virginia county:
West Virginia Attorney General's full statement:
"On Oct. 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided it would not take up the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to set aside Virginia's law regarding same-sex marriage. By refusing to consider the appeal, the Supreme Court has caused the Appeals Court's decision to become final and binding on 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.
"As the state's Attorney General, it is my duty to defend state laws that have been passed by the state Legislature and are consistent with the Constitution. We have discharged this duty faithfully. In the upcoming days, we will now seek to bring to a close the pending litigation over West Virginia's marriage laws, consistent with the Fourth Circuit's now-binding decision.
"As we have repeatedly indicated in our court filings, however, others not involved in the litigation will be necessary to actually bring the State into compliance with the Fourth Circuit's decision. Neither the Attorney General nor the two named county clerks have the power to change uniform state marriage forms and procedures. Only the State Registrar may alter state marriage forms, and the Secretary of State's Office has authority over marriage celebrants and their ability to solemnize marriages. While we will take steps to seek to end the litigation, the conclusion of the lawsuit cannot and will not alone effectuate the Fourth Circuit's mandate."
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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