The marriage issue has indeed become election ad fodder in recent years, particularly during a failed multimillion-dollar bid by Republicans to capture the House in 2006. It seems certain to play a role in the high-stakes 2014 midterms. After significant gains last year, the GOP holds 46 of 100 House seats and is girding for a takeover. The entire House and half the 34-member Senate is up for election next year. Republicans haven't had a majority in either chamber since the 1930s.
But defining marriage in the West Virginia Constitution isn't solely a Republican goal. Five House Democrats, including House Majority Leader Brent Boggs of Braxton County, helped co-sponsor a bipartisan "Marriage Protection Amendment" proposal during this year's session. Like the GOP-only version, it remained bottled up in committee.
While the marriage amendment proposals have failed, so too have attempts to add sexual orientation to laws barring housing and job discrimination. During this year's legislative session, Skinner successfully had a bill amended in committee to bar such discrimination during jury selection -- only to watch fellow Democrats help strip out that change when the measure reached the House floor.
"We don't need to go down the road of making special laws for anything for unique lifestyles," Delegate David Walker, a Clay County Democrat and a marriage amendment co-sponsor, said during that April debate.
The Supreme Court decisions have interest groups from both sides poised to weigh in both at the Legislature and with voters.
"These historic rulings do not end our work in the Mountain State," said Casey Willits, Fairness West Virginia's executive director.
The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, an evangelical Christian group, is a leading advocate of a marriage amendment. It has enlisted ministers from across the state to lobby their local lawmakers and legislative leaders. The group also took on criticism in 2009 for running an online ad that likened same-sex marriage supporters to snipers targeting families.
"Whatever else it got wrong, the [Supreme Court] was right to allow the debate over this most central institution of marriage to our society to continue," said Jeremiah Dys, the group's president. "We will continue to encourage West Virginia's elected representatives to do all that they can to strengthen and support marriage."