CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A Jefferson County delegate introduced a bill Thursday which would allow civil unions in West Virginia.
Though the issue has been discussed for a few years, Del. John Doyle (D-Jefferson) says it’s the first time a bill like this one has been filed.
Doyle says he considered introducing it a few years ago, but there were concerns the move would derail an anti-discrimination bill that was being considered at the same time.
"The state of West Virginia is ready for civil unions," says Doyle.
Public Policy Polling, an independent firm based in North Carolina, recently asked people across the West Virginia what they think about the issue.
The poll found 17 percent of people said they support gay marriage, while another 26 percent said they were OK with civil unions but not marriage.
However, 54 percent said they opposed any legal recognition of gay couples.
Coy Flowers, who is on the board of directors of Fairness West Virginia, says he recognizes this is an issue the state could debate for many years to come.
He and his partner have a six-year-old, Alden.
"I'm the legal guardian of Alden. However, my partner has no legal rights to him. So, if I should unfortunately leave this earth, my child could potentially be the topic of a legal battle," says Flowers.
The bill was introduced just days after a demonstration in Huntington between people for and against gay marriage.
Kevin McCoy, with the West Virginia Family Foundation, says he sees civil unions as a step toward allowing gay marriage.
"It's nothing against homosexuals. The psychology is, if you oppose the homosexual agenda, you're a hateful bigot,” says McCoy. “That's not true whatsoever."
Del. Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) is pushing for a constitutional amendment which would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
"Citizens of West Virginia have made it very clear that they believe marriage should be a union of one man and one woman. And, I think civil unions is just an effort to get around that," says Armstead.
But, Flowers says the issue isn’t about marriage. “It's about the legal rights and responsibilities that are conferred with the relationship between two people who love each other," he says.
Though he introduced the bill, Doyle says he doubts it's going anywhere this year.
"The idea is to call attention to the issue," he says.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, five states allow civil unions. Another seven states and Washington, D.C, have approved gay marriage.