The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 27, 2010

Door closed on marriage amendment

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — Consider the marriage definition amendment a dead issue in this legislative session.

Democrats blocked a Republican-led motion in the House to bring the bill out on the floor for a vote.

And Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, says he isn’t going to bother with it, given the crush of major issues left in the final two weeks of the session and the absence of a floodtide of homosexuals seeking marriage permits in West Virginia.

“It’s a highly contentious issue,” Kessler said Friday. “It would lead to a lot of floor debate. I just don’t think it’s necessary at this point.”

In Democratic caucuses, Kessler said, the general sentiment has been to let the matter drop.

More than 100 people waving placards and shouting, “Let us vote,” rallied this week at the Capitol in a demonstration orchestrated by a Christian group known as Family Policy of West Virginia.

Proponents of the proposed amendment that would define marriage as an act between one man and one woman maintain the existing Defense of Marriage Act is vulnerable to a court challenge.

Kessler doesn’t share that opinion.

“I think we’ve got an adequate law with DOMA on the books,” he said.

“So I don’t know if we need to go out and worry about what they may be doing in Delaware or Minnesota or anywhere else to guide or influence unnecessarily West Virginia public policy.”

During the floor session, one of the sponsors of a Senate floor session seeking the constitutional amendment, Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, handed Kessler two boxes crammed with more than 5,416 signatures of voters seeking a chance to decide the issue.

Other sponsors included Sens. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, and Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas.

“There doesn’t seem to be any march to the courthouse by any gay couples to try to get married in this state,” Kessler said afterward.

“It doesn’t seem to be a problem. It appears to be more of a manufactured problem or crisis than it is to be one of actuality.”

Kessler said he is yet to see anyone turned down at the courthouse seeking a marriage license, or even any homosexuals asking for one.

“I just don’t see it being worthy of the limited time we have left to fight that battle,” he said.

Lawmakers are due to wrap up the session March 13. Bills must leave their house of origin as of Wednesday.

“I’ve always been very skeptical of making discriminatory behavior constitutional,” Kessler said. “The Constitution, as I view it, protects the rights of the minority.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com