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Virginia: AG Mark Herring will no longer defend state's gay marriage ban

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
(Photo courtesy of Herring for Attorney General)

Will the state of Virginia be the next state to serve victory for same-sex marriage? According to a report by the Associated Press on Jan. 23, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has determined that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, thus he will no longer defend it in federal lawsuits.

This, itself, provides a victory for gay couples in the state as a spokesman for Herring said the state will in fact side with plaintiffs who seek to strike down the ban that passed back in 2006 with the support of 57 percent of Virginia voters.

Herring has planned to file a brief Thursday morning with the federal court in Norfolk, which is the setting for one of the lawsuits. After a thorough legal review, Herring explained the shift in position. He told NPR:

“I had voted against marriage equality eight years ago back in 2006 even though at the time I was speaking out against discrimination and ways to end discrimination and I was wrong for not applying it to marriage. I saw very soon after that how that hurt a lot of people and it was very painful for a lot of people.”

Mark Herring’s shift, along with the election of Governor Terry McAuliffe has changed the state of Virginia into a less socially conservative state, which can only help recognition of same-sex marriage in the state, especially coming of the heels of states like Utah and Oklahoma sticking down gay marriage bans.

Most importantly, Herring’s shift further validates his commitment to speaking out against discrimination of all kinds and presenting an active voice in that fight.

“As attorney general I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights. That’s what I have pledged over and over to do, is to put the law and put Virginians first. …It’s about what the law requires here, and we have concluded, I have concluded, that the law here is unconstitutional, and I think the Supreme Court…would find the law unconstitutional.”

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