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Va. lawmakers split along party lines on AG’s plan to fight gay marriage ban

Thursday, January 23, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. — Attorney General Mark Herring’s announcement Thursday that he’ll join a fight to undo the state’s ban on same-sex marriage set the stage for a showdown with Republican legislators.

Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Va.)

Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Va.)

The GOP lawmakers reacted angrily to Herring’s decision, saying the attorney general abandoned his role as the chief defender of the state’s laws.

“Less than two weeks ago, Mark Herring took an oath and swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Virginia,” House Speaker William J. Howell said in a statement. “I am very concerned about his announcement today and the dangerous precedent it sets with regard to the rule of law.’”

Herring’s move wasn’t entirely unexpected. Del. Todd Gilbert, R- Shenandoah, said Herring’s remarks on the campaign trail last year prompted Gilbert to propose legislation that would give lawmakers the ability to intervene in lawsuits on behalf the state.

“Since he is choosing to change the rules as we go certainly the General Assembly has the right to alter the process by which we defend our laws when the attorney general chooses not to defend them.” Gilbert said.

He added that Herring’s announcement may speed up action on the bill, which is before a committee.

Herring dismissed the legislation as unnecessary.

“Virginia has one attorney general. I think it’s going to stay that way,” he said at a news conference.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers praised Herring and said there was clear precedent for an attorney general not to defend a law he thinks is unconstitutional.

“The attorney general has it right,” said House Minority Leader David Toscano.

Herring’s move may also cast a contentious social issue back to the forefront of Virginia politics, something newly elected Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has appeared eager to avoid while instead focusing on economic development issues.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, McAuliffe reiterated his strong support for gay rights, but scoffed at recent attempts by Democratic lawmakers to push a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing gay marriage through the General Assembly.

“I mean, c’mon, it’s not going to pass the House of Delegates,” said McAullife, referencing the firm control Republicans have of the House.

The governor’s spokesman said Thursday that McAuliffe supports Herring’s “efforts to ensure that all Virginians are treated equally under the law.”

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35 more reader comments:

  1. Y

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 7:56pm
  2. ?

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 7:58pm
  3. Anything that angers Republicans is good for America.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8:04pm
  4. As if it would be any other way but by Party line.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8:14pm
  5. The AGs job is to defend the laws of the state not to judge them. He works for the people of the state not the federal government.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8:16pm
  6. In a sense you are correct, the AG must defend the laws of the state. However, since he is an attorney, he must weigh the merits of the case. Precedent was set in the "Loving" case that struck down laws banning inter racial marriage. If a law is unjust, it should not be defended by the AG. It would be a waste of money. All laws barring any class of people from wedding are unjust and will eventually be struck down.

    Replied on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:00pm
  7. As part of his role as legal advisor to the state's government yes, he does help to interpret the law. It's set up that way.

    Replied on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:26pm
  8. you aren’t being forced to pay in order to read their content. click outside the box…it’s free. >_<

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8:23pm
  9. you aren’t being forced, and last i checked, Facebook is free. only way its on your page is caused ya liked it…#smh #nowords

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8:26pm
  10. Like, um, DUH!!

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8:45pm
  11. Of course they are. Hate is the official brand of the opposers.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8:52pm
  12. I eagerly await the legalization of polygamy that will surely follow. All of the same arguments being made to legalize same sex marriage equally apply to polygamy. As the state’s case against same sex marriage crumbles so too will their ability to keep polygamy illegal as well. In fact same sex marriage actually strengthens the case to legalize polygamy.

    Public policy exceptions exist regarding many state laws that are in violation of the 14th. Why is driving age set at 16 1/2 in most states? Why not 15 or 14? Why is alcohol forbidden to those under 21 yet all other aspects of adulthood kick in at 18?

    Why? Because the state has shown a clear public policy reason behind such unequal treatment. Even the marriage laws are not written so that any straight can marry any other straight. Most states have age and relation limits. Some states allow parental waivers if the person is between 16 and 18. Some states also have different levels of blood relations allowed to get married. Again these limits are in place because they square with the state’s public policy goals.

    So there has never been a universal right to marry in this country, there have always been limits.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:10pm
  13. That's a specious argument, don't you think?

    Replied on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:22pm
  14. It's a legit argument based on the differing levels of scrutiny the court uses when deciding whether the obvious discrimination in a law is legal or not.

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 1:12am
  15. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/epcscrutiny.htm

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 1:13am
  16. http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/equal_protection

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 1:17am
  17. The Loving case was different because it treated people unequally. Any non-white was free to marry any other non-white while whites were only allowed to marry other whites.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:13pm
  18. How is that different from treating gay people differently?

    Replied on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:27pm
  19. Sorry, "separate but equal" is not equal. The courts have already established this, and they're in the process of clarifying what that means for marriage rights.

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:56am
  20. You can't disallow someone from entering into a legal contract with another person because of the sex of either participant. Not only is it a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, it's just mean-spirited. How would you like it if you only had the legal right to get married to a certain kind of person that you are not attracted to?

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:59am
  21. Marriage has been a very specific type of contract with limits as decided by the issuing state. These limits are perfectly legal as long as they have a public policy basis (we don't want adults marrying children so we have an age of 18 requirement with some states allowing as young as 16 with parental permission.) Limiting marriage to opposite gender couplings is legal under the 14th amendment as long as the state can articulate a clear public policy reason for the limit. This is the same rational used to limit marriage based on age and limiting the closeness of blood relatives to marry. The Loving case is not analogous to the current same sex marriage fight because it singled out one race (whites) and prevented them from marrying outside of their race. There was no public policy reason for this other than a racist desire to keep white people white. If the state had enacted a total racial purity requirement (whites only marry whites, blacks only marry blacks, etc...) then the state could have said that their law impacted everyone equally. It still would have been overturned but their legal basis would have been more solid. Look up the different types of scrutiny that the court uses to judge the validity of laws vs the 14th. You will find that many laws that are discriminatory are still legal because they serve a public policy goal.

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 1:10am
  22. Imagine that…angry with civil rights!! That is nothing new in Virginia.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:17pm
  23. i hope republicans burn in hell and its a bout time the ussc finaly takes up and resolves this matter in favor of gay rights

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:25pm
  24. Under current marriage law any male is free to marry and female with a few exceptions. Thus everyone is treated the same.

    Same sex marriage has to also legalize polygamy. Why? Bisexuals. Without polygamy bisexuals are being discriminated against because they will still be forced to either enter a homosexual or heterosexual marriage.

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 9:42pm
  25. Troll is trolling. Bye-bye, troll.

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:59am
  26. Fuck the oppressive regime vote ,vote these asses out

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 10:27pm
  27. Predictably!

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 10:45pm
  28. Okay.. So some people are saying that if we legalize same-sex marriage, then we should also legalize polygamy because of bisexuals or they’ll be “discriminated”… Wtf?! Just because you’re bisexual doesn’t mean you love two people of opposite genders at ONCE. Just like pansexuals don’t love ALL PEOPLE at ONCE. I mean no one is being ‘forced’ into a marriage at all… If that makes sense..

    Posted on Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 11:58pm
  29. The "polygamy for bisexuals" argument assumes bisexuals cannot be monogamous, which is a stereotype that has been used against all members of the community over the years.

    Replied on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 1:01am
  30. EVERY fucking State gvt (AND the Fed gvt) is SPLIT ALONG PARTY LINES about EVERYTHING. Next point?

    Posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:59am
  31. Awesome

    Posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 1:27am
  32. Too fucking bad, Teabaggers.

    Posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 2:03am
  33. Something is in their water.

    Posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 6:31am
  34. bunch of bigot republicans!! they suck….

    Posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 7:09am
  35. Just get over it! :)

    Posted on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 10:20am