Politics

In Shift, Virginia's New AG to Fight State's Gay Marriage Ban

January 23, 2014
 

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring will announce today that he believes the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and that Virginia will join two same-sex couples in asking a federal court to strike it down.

Herring's office confirmed his stance this morning in an email to The Associated Press.

The action will mark a reversal in the state's legal position on same-sex marriage and is a result of November elections in which Democrats swept the state's top offices. Republican Ken Cuccinelli, Herring's predecessor, adamantly opposed gay marriage and had promised to defend Virginia's ban on such unions, enshrined in a state constitutional amendment that was passed in 2006 with the support of 57 percent of voters.

Herring, too, voted against same-sex marriage eight years ago when he was a state senator. But he has said that his views have changed since then and that today he will file a supportive brief in a lawsuit in Norfolk that challenges the state's ban, said two people familiar with his plans.

Herring will say that Virginia has been on the "wrong side" of landmark legal battles involving school desegregation, interracial marriage and single-gender education at the Virginia Military Institute, one official said. He will make the case that the commonwealth should be on the "right side of the law and history" in the battle over same-sex marriage.

He has not informed Republicans in Richmond about his plans; an uproar is likely. GOP lawmakers have worried that Herring would change the state's position - such decisions are up to the attorney general - and have contemplated legislation that would allow them to defend the law in court.

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