Jan 24, 2014

Attorney General Mark Herring Will Not Defend the Marshall-Newman Amendment

Early Thursday I received a phone call from a representative of the Attorney General.  We had spoken many times during the campaign, sometimes at length, about what Mark Herring’s position would be on Marriage Equality if elected.  Mark had voted to pass the Marshall-Newman Amendment years ago when he was in the State Senate.  In recent years, however, he had shown leadership against the amendment.  As chairperson of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, I wanted to know how Mark Herring would represent the LGBT citizens of the state.  As his representative explained to me then, Mark would review the law, gather opinions from other legal experts, and then and only then could he decide.  If the amendment was constitutionally sound, then he must defend it. If he found the amendment to not be sound, then he had the option not to defend it.

Today, that same representative called to personally tell me that Attorney General Mark Herring had made a decision.  He would not defend the amendment.  In fact, he would enter into the fight for the plaintiffs in the Bostic v. Rainey case that will have oral arguments next week.  I cannot tell you the swell of emotion that I felt when what he said registered in my brain.  I knew that Attorney General Herring had reviewed the legal issues for some time to come to this decision.  The decision was not generated from his personal support of marriage equality, but was determined through months of legal review, discussion, and deliberation.  It was the right choice to make considering he has determined the amendment is not constitutionally sound.

In his press conference, Attorney General Herring stated:

I swore an oath to both the United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution. 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.

He went on to say:

Virginia has argued on the wrong side of some of our nation’s landmark cases—in school desegregation in 1954, on interracial marriage with the 1967 Loving decision, and in 1996 on state-supported single-gender education at VMI. It’s time for the Commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law.

We commend Attorney General Herring for his thoughtful legal review and for maintaining the independence of the Attorney General’s office.  His decision will put Virginia on a path to the right side of history and the right side of the law.

Please join us in supporting Attorney General Herring, and send a message to thank him for standing on the right side of history.