Virginia’s New Attorney General, Mark Herring, says he Won’t Defend State’s Ban on Homosexual Marriage

Virginia Attorney General, Mark R. Herring
Virginia Attorney General, Mark R. Herring

The attorney general of Virginia has concluded that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and has joined the suit that challenged the law in federal court, a spokesman for the office said Thursday.

Michael Kelly, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark R. Herring, said that instead of defending the ban, “the Commonwealth will side with the plaintiffs in seeking to have the ban declared unconstitutional.”

The decision by Mr. Herring, who took office as attorney general this month, follows recent rulings by federal court judges in Utah and Oklahoma that have struck down laws forbidding same-sex marriage in those states. The move is an abrupt shift from previous positions taken by Virginia’s socially conservative elected officials.

On Thursday, the attorney general filed a brief in federal court in Norfolk — where a lawsuit challenging the ban is being heard — to notify the court of the state’s change in position.

“After thorough legal review, I have now concluded that Virginia’s ban on marriage between same sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on two grounds: marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender,” Mr. Herring told reporters at a news conference.

Mr. Herring, a Democrat and former state senator, narrowly defeated Mark Obenshain, a Republican state senator, in the November general election in which Democrats also won the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices.

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The New York Times