MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The clerk of West Virginia's biggest county says she needs more time to respond to a lawsuit over the state's ban on same-sex marriages and has asked a judge to postpone her Wednesday deadline.
Kanawha County Clerk Vera McCormick filed a motion Monday in U.S. District Court in Charleston, asking that the deadline for her response be extended.
The national gay rights organization Lambda Legal, based in New York, sued earlier this month, declaring West Virginia's Defense of Marriage Act a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It filed a similar lawsuit challenging Virginia's ban on gay marriages in September.
McCormick's petition says the case involves a constitutional issue that "will have far ranging effects for each and every citizen of the state of West Virginia," and for the 55 county clerks who currently are required to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The response to the lawsuit must be comprehensive and include "any and all defenses," her attorney wrote. "Certainly, 21 days is not appropriate time to prepare a responsive pleading on issues that will affect the entire state."
Under federal court rules, the defendants in civil cases have 21 days to respond. McCormick said she asked Lambda Legal's attorneys to agree to the extension, but they declined.
McCormick also argued that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has the legal right to intervene in the case, so she should get a 60-day extension while she awaits word from him. Her petition notes she has no discretion on whether to grant marriage licenses and no expertise on the legal issues at hand.
"To put the onus on her to file a responsive pleading ... without the knowledge of the attorney general's position is fundamentally unfair," the petition says.