LGBT rights in West Virginia

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Map of USA WV.svg
StatusLegal since 1976
Gender identityYes
Discrimination protectionsNone statewide, but 11 cities have antidiscrimination ordinances
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsMarriage since October 9, 2014

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the U.S. state of West Virginia face legal challenges even though homosexual activity and same-sex marriages are legal in West Virginia.

Laws against same-sex sexual activity[edit]

West Virginia repealed its sodomy law in March 1976.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Same-sex marriage became legal in West Virginia on October 9, 2014, when the attorney general announced he would no longer defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in court and the governor directed all state agencies to comply with recent federal court rulings that established the state's ban was unconstitutional.[2]

A state statute defines marriage between a man and a woman. In 2009, a bill that would amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage in the state was overwhelmingly voted down (67-30) by the House of Delegates. All 29 House Republicans voted to move the measure out of committee, along with one Democrat. The amendment was heavily supported by Evangelical groups in the state and the Family Council Policy of West Virginia.[3] In 2010, "The Marriage Protection Amendment" was re-introduced in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. Republican efforts to discharge the measure from the House Constitutional Revision Committee and were defeated (68-30). The amendment was later defeated in the Senate.

In December 2011, Delegate John Doyle introduced a bill to legalize civil unions in West Virginia as one of his last acts before retirement in 2012.[4][5] It was submitted to the House of Delegates in February 2012 and died without a vote.[6]

West Virginia extended hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples through a designated visitor statute.[7]

McGee v. Cole[edit]

On October 1, 2013, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit, McGee v. Cole, in U.S. District Court on behalf of three same-sex couples and one of their children challenging the state's denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The suit named two county clerks as defendants.[8] On November 21, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey asked the court to allow his office to defend the state's statutes,[9] and on December 19 both he and the clerk asked the court to dismiss part of the suit.[10] On January 30, 2014, the judge assigned to the case, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers, dismissed the part of the suit challenging the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, since none of the plaintiffs had married elsewhere, but he invited the plaintiffs to add plaintiffs that had done so and the plaintiffs said they were considering that.[11]

On June 10, 2014, the Judge Chambers ordered a stay of proceedings until there is a ruling in Bostic v. Shaefer. Bostic is a same-sex marriage case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The district judge reasoned that "because of the overlap in the issues present" the Virginia case should be decided first.[12] His order matched those in two other same-sex marriage cases in the Fourth Circuit: Harris v. Rainey, a Virginia case, and Bradacs v. Haley, a South Carolina case.

Discrimination protections[edit]

Map of West Virginia counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

There are no statewide protections for sexual orientation or gender identity. A bill that would prohibit discrimination based on one's sexual orientation was passed by the state Senate in March 2009,[13] though was killed by the House later that month.[14] In both 2010 and 2011, the bill was re-introduced in both the House of Delegates and Senate but stalled in committee. In 2013, a bill was introduced again in the House and Senate.[15][16]

Public opinion[edit]

A September 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 19% of West Virginia voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 71% thought it should be illegal and 10% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 43% of West Virginia voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 17% supporting same-sex marriage, 26% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 54% favoring no legal recognition and 3% not sure.[17]

A September 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 23% of West Virginia voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 70% thought it should be illegal and 7% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 49% of West Virginia voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 20% supporting same-sex marriage, 29% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 48% favoring no legal recognition and 4% not sure.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201, available online, accessed April 10, 2011
  2. ^ Maher, Kris (October 9, 2014). "West Virginia Moves Forward on Gay Marriage". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  3. ^ "West Virginia House Blocks Amendment Attempt". March 31, 2009. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  4. ^ "Jefferson County Delegate Will Not Seek Reelection". WEPM Radio News. December 22, 2011.
  5. ^ "West Virginia Delegate John Doyle Plans Civil Unions Bill". On Top Magazine. December 23, 2011.
  6. ^ "Bill Introduced in W.Va. Would Allow Civil Unions". WSAZ. February 17, 2012. Archived from the original on April 12, 2013. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  7. ^ "Hospital Visitation Rights" (PDF). Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  8. ^ Snow, Justin (October 1, 2013). "West Virginia same-sex couples file lawsuit for marriage rights". Metro Weekly. Retrieved November 18, 2013.
  9. ^ "WV AG to Intervene in Gay Marriage Case". Washington Post. November 22, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2013.
  10. ^ "Federal judge asked to dismiss West Virginia gay marriage suit". Cumberland Times-News. December 19, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  11. ^ "Judge allows most of lawsuit challenging W.Va. gay marriage ban to proceed". Daily Journal. January 31, 2014. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  12. ^ White, Kate (Staff Writer) (June 10, 2014). "W.Va. gay marriage suit to await higher court ruling". The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  13. ^ "West Virginia Senate passes gay anti-discrimination bill". March 16, 2009. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  14. ^ "Marriage 'scare tactic' doomed gay-rights bill". Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  15. ^ A bill prohibiting discrimination based upon age or sexual orientation, House of Delegates
  16. ^ A bill prohibiting discrimination based upon age or sexual orientation, Senate
  17. ^ Public Policy Polling: "WV against gay marriage, for Tea Party, Steelers, Reds/Bucs," September 15, 2011, accessed September 20, 2011
  18. ^ "Clinton behind Cruz, other potential Republican opponents in WV" (PDF). Retrieved November 2, 2013.