CHARLESTON - The issue of defining a marriage as the union between one man and one woman is being considered for a state constitutional amendment again.
The West Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate drafted joint resolutions Thursday calling for a statewide vote on the amendment during the next general election in 2012.
House Joint Resolution 18 and Senate Joint Resolution 5 are proposing an amendment to the state constitution called the "Marriage Protection Amendment." The amendment has been proposed in the past, but has never made it out of committee.
The proposed amendment in both drafts states, "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for same-sex relationships to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities or effects of marriage."
Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, were co-sponsors of the Senate version of the amendment.
Boley said she receives letters all the time from people wanting this amendment enacted.
The West Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate drafted joint resolutions Thursday calling for a statewide vote on an amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman.
If approved it could go toward a statewide vote during the general election of 2012.
''The people of West Virginia have always been conservative,'' she said. ''It is just the way it is here. So far, I have not received any opposition to it.''
The issue of civil unions and same-sex marriage has come up in other states with challenges to other state constitutions, Nohe said.
''It could impact West Virginia,'' he said.
Lawmakers wanted the amendment in place before such a challenge came in West Virginia.
''People want it in advance,'' Boley said.
Both resolutions have the support of the West Virginia Family Foundation.
"Senate Joint Resolution 5 and House Joint Resolution 18 will constitutionally protect marriage as only between one man and one woman, preventing activist judges from radically redefining marriage in our state,'' West Virginia Family Foundation President Kevin McCoy said.
"The amendment will also preserve the unique legal benefits that are provided for this sacred institution and prohibit counterfeit relationships such as homosexual 'civil unions' and 'domestic partner benefits,' which are homosexual 'marriage' by another name," he said.
McCoy noted the state Supreme Court of Appeals has established "sexual orientation" as a "protected class" in its Code of Judicial Conduct Canon. Three other state supreme courts - California, Iowa and Massachusetts - each cited their state's adoption of identical policies as validating their rulings declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
"It has been six years since we first introduced the Marriage Protection Amendment, and in that short time, voters in 30 other states have adopted such amendments," McCoy said.
Boley said it has not gotten out of committee in the past because the chairman of the judiciary committee has not put it on the agenda for the committee to act on it and move it to the full Senate for a vote.
Boley and Nohe support letting the people of West Virginia vote on this and decide for themselves.
''The aim of this amendment is to say that marriage truly is a union between a man and a woman and that is not open for challenge in West Virginia,'' Nohe said. ''This is an issue near and dear to the hearts of many West Virginians.
''The people should be allowed to vote on it.''