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Va. governor rejects call to appoint prosecutor to defend gay marriage ban

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe on Monday rejected a request from dozens of Republican lawmakers asking him to appoint a special prosecutor to defend the state’s same sex marriage ban.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.)

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.)

In a letter to Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William, Va.), McAuliffe said the state’s ban was already receiving a “vigorous defense.”

Marshall had organized the request for outside counsel among GOP lawmakers after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he believes the ban is unconstitutional, and that he would not defend it in court.

A spokesman for McAuliffe, a longtime supporter of marriage equality, told the Washington Post that he supports Herring’s decision.

In his letter to Marshall, McAuliffe noted that other officials outside of the attorney general’s office are fighting the ban.

“I share your view that the effective administration of our legal system requires zealous advocacy on all matters before the courts,” McAuliffe wrote. “In the present case, Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is being vigorously and appropriately defended by the Clerk of Court for the City of Norfolk and the Clerk of Court for Prince William County.”

The defendants are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Foundation of Virginia.

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“Accordingly, I respectfully decline to appoint special counsel in this matter,” he concluded.

The Attorney General’s actions have angered top Republicans in the state General Assembly, who passed a measure out of committee Monday that would give lawmakers legal status to intervene in legal challenges when the governor and attorney general decline to defend a Virginia law.

If passed by the full Assembly, it would then need to be considered by the Senate.

The Post also reported that Marshall is developing a legal ethics complaint against Herring on the premise that the attorney general has failed to properly represent his clients: the people of Virginia, the 57 percent of whom voted for the marriage ban in 2006.

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