New Virginia Attorney General Aims To End Ban On Gay Marriages

In a move that could give gay marriage its first foothold in the South and give a win for the LGBT community and human rights groups, Virginia’s new attorney general said Thursday, January 23, that his office would no longer defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and instead will support those seeking to have the law struck down.

Violation of the 14th Amendment

Newly elected Democratic Attorney General Mark R. Herring said he would support gay couples who have filed lawsuits challenging the state’s ban.

“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,” Herring said.

Game Changer

The decision by Herring, elected in November by a razor-thin margin over Republican Mark Obenshain, could have national implications. In recent years, Virginia has emerged as a battleground state in presidential elections and is increasingly being regarded as a bellwether in the same-sex-marriage debate. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex marriage.

“The attorney general won’t defend the constitutionality of those laws [and] will argue for their being declared unconstitutional,” Virginia’s solicitor general wrote in a brief filed Thursday.