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Judge delays W.Va. same-sex marriage ruling

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers postponed any ruling concerning a challenge to West Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage until a higher court decides a similar case in Virginia.

Chambers entered the three-sentence order Tuesday, stating issues in the local case overlap with another being decided by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

The local lawsuit, filed Oct. 1, 2013, in Huntington, argues clerks in Kanawha and Cabell counties violated the 14th Amendment right to due process and equal protection in denying a request for marriage licenses brought by three same-sex couples.

Chambers’ decision comes as federal judges across the nation are striking down similar bans in other states.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments May 13 in the Virginia case. It involves four couples challenging the state’s same-sex marriage prohibition and two circuit court clerks who defend the ban. Unlike West Virginia, Morrisey’s counterpart in Virginia supports the same-sex couples and has urged the court to uphold the district court’s ruling. That ruling in February found Virginia’s constitutional amendment, its laws barring gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions performed in other states violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process guarantees.

The three-judge panel is expected to issue its decision in a few weeks, an issue both sides believe ultimately will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A decision overturning Virginia’s ban could also affect similar prohibitions in West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, which also are in the 4th Circuit…

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