CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The three gay and lesbian couples who are challenging West Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage aren't going to add any more plaintiffs to their federal lawsuit, despite a judge allowing them the chance to do so.
On Jan. 29, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers ruled that most of the couples' lawsuit could proceed, but Chambers said that because none of the plaintiffs in the case is actually married, they don't have legal standing to challenge the fact that West Virginia won't recognize out-of-state marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
The plaintiffs had until Wednesday to amend their complaint to include couples married in other states who want their marriages recognized in West Virginia.
Karen Loewy, an attorney with Lambda Legal, the group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the same-sex couples, said she doesn't see how, if West Virginia officials are forced to allow same-sex marriages in their own state, they could continue to not recognize such marriages from other places.
Last week, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled it unconstitutional for that state to not recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other states. That issue was the only matter addressed in that particular lawsuit.
"The way the cases look in different states vary pretty widely," Loewy said. "It's hard to imagine the same analysis wouldn't apply for the state to enforce the recognition provision when the ban is recognized as discriminatory."
The three couples in the West Virginia lawsuit -- two from Huntington and one from St. Albans -- sued Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick and Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole in October. They claim that, by complying with state law and refusing to issue them marriage licenses, the clerks are unfairly discriminating against same-sex couples in violation of the due-process and equal-protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In his Jan. 29 order, Chambers also questioned if suing the clerks in two counties would be enough to force all county clerks in West Virginia to issue licenses for same-sex marriages if he rules in the plaintiffs' favor.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued in a filing last week that such a ruling would have statewide effect because West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey intervened in the lawsuit to defend the state.