Virginia’s new Attorney General supports marriage equality

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By Lisa Marie Vari on Google+

Your Pittsburgh LGBT rights lawyers bring you the latest:

Asserting that the state of Virginia had too often been on the “wrong side” of justice on civil rights matters in the past, Virginia’s newly elected attorney general, Mark Herring, asked a federal court to invalidate the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, calling the law unconstitutional and oppressive.

At a news conference in Richmond last week, Mr. Herring said the ban violated the 14th Amendment right to due process and equal protection, an argument that has been the basis of successful legal challenges to same-sex marriage prohibitions in other states.

“I cannot and will not defend a law that violates Virginians’ fundamental constitutional rights,” Mr. Herring said. To do so, he said, “would be a violation of the law and my oath.”

Mr. Herring cited legal cases in which he said Virginia’s leadership had failed its residents by arguing against school desegregation in Brown v. the Board of Education, interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia, and women’s admission to the Virginia Military Institute, a state-supported military college, in United States v. Virginia.

“Too many times in our history, our citizens have had to lead the way on civil rights while their leaders stood against them,” Mr. Herring said. “This will not be another instance. It is time for the commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law.”

The conflict arises because as Attorney General it is his job to defend state laws, including the 2006 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. His refusal to defend the ban on same-sex marriage is essentially a violation of his position as a state elected official and it has many conservatives in this southern state up in arms.

The decision is clearly one that many see as honorable, as Herring is defending his belief in marriage equality, but it is not being well-received by many. Supporters of same-sex marriage are strongly backing the push to make Virginia the first southern state to allow same-sex marriage, but this move may not be good for his popularity with some state voters.

Your Pittsburgh same-sex rights lawyers at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates will be closely watching this situation and will keep you up to date on any new developments. We are happy that the fight for marriage equality is gaining more strength and we are hoping that soon it will move to Pennsylvania and that we will be able to see many of wonderful Pittsburgh same-sex couple clients finally get the legal recognition they deserve.