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Pending Court Case Could Overturn WV Marriage Ban

PHOTO: Lennie Gerber, left, and her wife, Pearl, have been together for 48 years. They're among the plaintiffs in a suit challenging the Virginia ban on same-sex marriage. Photo courtesy of Lennie Gerber.
PHOTO: Lennie Gerber, left, and her wife, Pearl, have been together for 48 years. They're among the plaintiffs in a suit challenging the Virginia ban on same-sex marriage. Photo courtesy of Lennie Gerber.
July 25, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When it comes to same-sex marriage in West Virginia, all eyes now are on a federal courtroom in Richmond, in old Virginia.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is expected to rule any day on a case challenging Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage. But Kay Flaminio, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said the case, Bostic vs. Schaefer, also could overturn similar bans in four of the five states in the district.

"Fairness West Virginia is waiting to hear the marriage decision in the Bostic case, which will affect West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia," she said.

Opponents of marriage equality argue that it is a moral issue, although public opinion seems to be shifting in favor of it.

Lennie Gerber and Pearl, her partner of 48 years, are two of the plaintiffs in the case. Time is everything to them, Gerber said, as Pearl faces failing health.

"I'm fully aware of how we have had to fight for every step along the way of everybody's civil rights," she said. "So, it's just one more stone that has to be turned, and I have every confidence that it's going to be so. They only question is whether it will be done in time for us."

While the trend of overturning same-sex marriage bans seems to be on the fast track, Attorney Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina, another state in the circuit, said couples such as Lennie and Pearl across the nation have been waiting a lifetime.

"It is imperative to remember that we are representing clients that cannot wait months, years, for this to be resolved in the court system," he said. "They need their marriages recognized, so they can fully take care of their spouses and children."

The issue is almost certain to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV