Democratic Delegate Stephen Skinner, West Virginia’s first openly gay lawmaker, disagreed. “There’s really not much reason for a constitutional amendment, except to promote discrimination and promote homophobia,” he said.
National gay-rights leaders expect that lawsuits seeking to expand gay marriage rights will eventually bring the issue back to the Supreme Court in a quest for a ruling that would establish a 50-state policy.
Lawsuits already are pending in a number of states. Some of those involved were heartened by the past week’s rulings.
“What this does is establish very, very powerful precedents that we will be able to use in our case,” said Mark Lawrence of Restore Our Humanity, which is backing a legal challenge by three same-sex couples to a ban approved by Utah voters in 2004.
Michigan’s constitutional ban, also approved in 2004, is the target of a pending lawsuit by Detroit-area nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse seeking a right to jointly adopt each other’s children. The federal judge hearing the case had been waiting for the Supreme Court before issuing a judgment.
In New Mexico, two gay men from Santa Fe asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to decide whether same-sex marriage is legal. The lawsuit contends that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the state constitution, including provisions prohibiting gender-based discrimination and guaranteeing equal protection under the law.
New Mexico is one of only five states — along with West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Indiana — that has neither extended legal recognition to gay couples nor enacted a ban-gay-marriage constitutional amendment. There also is litigation in three states offering civil unions to gay couples, providing the rights and responsibilities of marriage but not extending that title.
In New Jersey, one lawsuit contends that civil unions do not fulfill a state Supreme Court mandate from 2006 that gay couples receive equal treatment to married heterosexual couples. The plaintiffs say they will soon file a motion arguing that, in light of the Supreme Court ruling, the only thing that is keeping the couples from equal treatment is the state law.