Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester on Monday said that he supports gay marriage, making him the first West Virginia mayor to back an effort to end the state's law, passed in 2000, which limits marriage to heterosexual couples.

“I signed on simply because I do not believe that individuals should be denied their opportunity to marry someone they love and want to make a lifelong commitment to,” Manchester said in a statement. “A marriage vow is the ultimate expression of commitment to another person. If two people love each other enough to make that commitment, the state should not stand in their way.”

Two lawsuits were recently filed in federal court challenging the state's ban.

“I hope that by signing on to this statement of support for the freedom to marry that it causes greater soul searching among our leaders and among our neighbors on this issue,” Manchester added.

“I hope that the residual fear and hatred that some people still feel toward gay and lesbian people will continue to dissipate over time and that gay and lesbian people will attain rights equal to everyone else, and that includes the freedom to marry.”