West Virginia State Delegate John Doyle on Thursday filed a bill which would recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, the AP reported.

Doyle, who is retiring after nearly 20 years of service, said he introduced the measure to start a conversation about family equality.

While state lawmakers have previously voted down bills which sought to define marriage as a heterosexual union in West Virginia's Constitution, Doyle said there wasn't enough support in the Legislature to pass a gay marriage bill.

“I'm not going to introduce a gay marriage bill simply because it has no chance of passing the West Virginia Legislature,” Doyle told WEPM Radio News earlier. “We just might be able to get a civil union bill through, so I'm going to give it a shot.”

Kevin McCoy, president of the West Virginia Family Foundation, told the AP that passage of the bill would make it easier for the courts to strike down the state's current ban.

“It is absolutely critical that we have a constitutional amendment that would keep an activist Supreme Court from being able to redefine marriage from the bench,” he said, referring to three pending resolutions in the Legislature.

If approved, West Virginia would join Rhode Island, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois and Delaware in offering the union. Lawmakers in Colorado are also currently debating whether to approve civil unions.