West Virginia Bans Gay Marriage

gay rights graphic w/ scales of justice
AP
The West Virginia Legislature voted Saturday to ban homosexual marriages and prohibit the state from recognizing such marriages performed in other states.

On the last day of the 60-day legislative session, the House approved the measure 96-3 and sent it to the governor for his signature. The Senate previously passed it unanimously. Gov. Cecil Underwood introduced the ban, so his agreement is expected.

"We were concerned we didn't have a statute. We could be forced into recognizing same-sex marriages from other states," Underwood said.

The bill would allow marriage licenses to be issued only to couples consisting of a man and a woman.

It would insert onto marriage license applications the phrase, "Marriage is designed to be a loving and lifelong union between a woman and a man." The bill also prohibits West Virginia from recognizing homosexual marriages performed in other states.

Chuck Smith, co-chairman of the West Virginia Lesbian and Gay Coalition, said, "I think this is a really sad day. The main purpose of the bill is to say, once again, that people who are gay and lesbian are second-class citizens."

On March 8, Californians approved a ballot measure that prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in any other state.

After the Hawaii Supreme Court raised the possibility of same-sex marriages in 1993 -- a prospect the state's voters later rejected -- 30 states and the federal government passed laws denying recognition to same-sex marriages.

In Vermont, town meetings have been held to guide state lawmakers trying to craft legislation following a state Supreme Court ruling that gays are unconstitutionally being denied the benefits of marriage.


By JENNIFER BUNDY