Virginia Attorney General Reverses View on Same-Sex Marriage

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Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, announced on Thursday that he, and his office, will not defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages. Herring, a Democrat, made the announcement on NPR. ”As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights,” Herring stated. ”The commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied.”

Herring came to office in November 2013, winning an incredibly tight race — by 907 votes — over Republican state senator, Mark D. Obenshain. After he took office, Herring said he asked his staff to review Bostic v. Rainey. 

The plaintiffs in the case are two couples, Tim Bostic and Tony London, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley. Bostic and London want to be married in the state of Virginia; Schall and Townley are seeking recognition of their California marriage. The American Foundation for Equal Rights has joined the case, as well as David Boies and Ted Olsen — both lawyers who have previously argued high-profile cases at the Supreme Court — who will represent the plaintiffs.

They affirm that the precedent set in Loving v. Virginia, which overturned Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage, is applicable to gay marriage today. By being treated differently, gay and lesbian couples in Virginia are being denied equal protection under the fourteenth amendment, the legal team states.

Herring alluded to this case on Thursday. “There have been times in some key landmark cases where Virginia was on the wrong side — was on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the law,” Herring explained. “And as attorney general, I’m going to make sure that the [people] presenting the state’s legal position on behalf of the people of Virginia are on the right side of history and on the right side of the law.”

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