Same-sex spouses of Shepherd University faculty will now be able to receive the same medical benefits after West Virginia’s attorney general and governor agreed on Oct. 9 to stop defending the state’s anti-marriage ban for same-sex couples.
“There is a great deal of interest on this topic and in support for this change across campus,” Dr. Marie DeWalt, director of human resources at Shepherd University, said.
On Oct. 6 the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of a federal legal case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Virginia. West Virginia is also in the 4th Circuit that created a binding precedent throughout the circuit that included West Virginia.
“[The Oct. 9, 2014] victory is one for which we’ve fought long and hard. We applaud the plaintiffs in this case for their courage to be the voice and face for countless West Virginians seeking equal treatment under the law,” Andrew Schneider, executive director for Fairness West Virginia, said in a press release.
Fairness West Virginia is a statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender West Virginians.
“In the past, employee benefit programs such as [West Virginia] Public Employees Insurance Agency, which are managed by the state of West Virginia, have prohibited employees from enrolling their same-sex spouses in their benefits plans,” DeWalt said.
With this ruling, a special enrollment period has begun for Shepherd staff and will end on Dec. 31, 2014 with no qualifying event required.
“Public Employees Insurance Agency is now accepting applications for enrollment coverage for same-sex spouses,” DeWalt said.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, made the announcement on Oct. 9, 2014 that he dropped his fight defending a law passed by lawmakers in 2000.
“The fight for LGBT equality in West Virginia is not over. While we savor this victory for marriage, we also look toward the future when every LGBT West Virginian can no longer fear housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Schneider said.