- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Same-sex couples began receiving marriage licenses in West Virginia on Thursday after Attorney General Patrick Morrisey dropped his fight to a court challenge on the state’s gay marriage ban.

“A little overwhelmed right now,” Chris Bostic of Charleston said, standing with David Epp while their application was being processed at the Kanawha County clerk’s office. “We didn’t realize we’d be the first people here.”

Bostic didn’t hesitate to make arrangements with Epp to get to the clerk’s office once they found out that the challenge was being dropped.

“We waited long enough,” he said.

Bostic and Epp were followed a few minutes later by Nancy Michael and Jane Fenton.

“We’re getting our marriage license!” Michael and Fenton said in unison.

The women are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on gay marriage. Two other couples who also are plaintiffs in the suit received their licenses in Cabell County.

Afterward, despite a pending lawsuit, Casie McGee and Sarah Adkins were married in a brief civil ceremony outside the Cabell County Courthouse, The Herald-Dispatch reported.

Clerks from Kanawha and Cabell counties are defendants in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban. A federal judge has yet to rule in the lawsuit.

But on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court ruling in July striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages. The appeals court also has jurisdiction over West Virginia.

“While we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Fourth Circuit’s opinion to stand and believe it improperly displaces state and local decision-making, we will respect it,” said Morrisey, a Republican who had intervened in the West Virginia lawsuit in November 2013 on behalf of the state.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin directed state agencies Thursday to take appropriate action to abide by the recent ruling.

“Our state is known for its kindness and hospitality to residents and visitors alike,” said Tomblin, a Democrat. “I encourage all West Virginians - regardless of their personal beliefs - to uphold our statewide tradition of treating one another with dignity and respect.”

The West Virginia lawsuit was filed in October 2013 by Lambda Legal on behalf of the three couples who were previously denied marriage licenses.

Lambda Legal attorney Beth Littrell said she was “delighted” by Morrisey’s decision.

“It’s a great day in the Mountain State,” she said.

U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers in Huntington had previously put West Virginia’s case on hold pending the outcome of the Virginia case.

On Tuesday, Chamber ordered the state and the county clerks in Kanawha and Cabell counties to respond by Oct. 21 to a motion by plaintiffs for summary judgment based on the outcome of the case in Virginia.

Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman Allison Adler said the state registrar directed county clerks Thursday to use existing marriage license forms until the paperwork can be updated. The registrar is in charge of any alterations to state marriage forms.

Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole said marriage licenses are issued at the same time that applications are submitted.

“There’s no waiting period,” she said. “They will fall under the same guidelines as marriages have always fallen under.”

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