Virginia attorney general: state's same-sex marriage ban unlawful
January 23rd, 2014
09:12 AM ET
10 months ago

Virginia attorney general: state's same-sex marriage ban unlawful

Updated 11:55 a.m., 1/23/2014

(CNN) – Virginia's new Democratic leadership has declared the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional and won't defend it in federal lawsuits, illustrating how partisan shifts at the top can swiftly move the needle on hot button issues.

"It's time for the commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law," state Attorney General Mark Herring said at a news conference.

Herring, a former state senator, stressed marriage equality as part of his campaign last year. His narrow election and Terry McAuliffe's victory as governor marked a major change in Virginia politics with Democrats replacing conservatives in top executive positions.

Former Virginia Attorney General, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who lost the gubernatorial election, was a strong opponent of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Multiple lawsuits in Virginia charge that the Old Dominion's same-sex marriage ban violates the Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses.

The Democratic position rankles the GOP in Virginia, a so-called "purple state" where the general assembly is dominated by Republicans and policies on social values trend conservative.

"By running for the office, Mark Herring asked for the challenge of defending Virginia's constitution and all it contains," Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins said in a statement.

"If Mark Herring doesn't want to defend this case, he should resign, and let the General Assembly appoint someone who will. Mark Herring owes the people of Virginia no less," he added.

Partisan politics at the state level have helped shape the national debate on key issues, including same-sex marriage, abortion, gun rights, and voter identification.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said official positions in many areas can shift when party control of government changes.

"In this polarized political era, a great gulf separates the two parties on all the hot-button social issues," he said.

Reversal of the same-sex marriage ban in a crucial battleground state nationally follows court decisions striking down similar prohibitions in Utah and Oklahoma, states where Republicans dominate the legislature and the governor's office.

President Barack Obama won Virginia in 2008 and 2012 and lost Utah and Oklahoma in those same elections.

Fifty-seven percent of Virginians voted to approve the same-sex marriage ban in 2006. But recent polling indicates that a slight majority now support the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

"This lawlessness is an insult to the voters of Virginia who approved the marriage amendment by a large majority," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "The 'left' is becoming a law unto itself."

A state's hue makes a big difference on where it stands on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, gun rights and voter identification laws. There are currently more Republican governors than Democrats and more Republican dominated legislatures.

For example, the 17 states and the District of Columbia that allow same sex-marriage are all considered Democratic-leaning "blue states." With a few exceptions, most states with a same-sex marriage ban tend to be Republican-leaning "red states."

Also, more than half of the nation's state legislatures introduced measures last year that sought to sidestep any potential federal ban on firearms, assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, according to data collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Most of those were so-called "red states" with Republicans in charge of at least one chamber of the legislature and often governorships.

Moreover, several Republican-dominated states with a history of voter discrimination pressed forward with controversial voter identification laws after the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act.

And the strongest resistance to participating in insurance exchanges, a key component of Obama's signature health care reform law, came from states with Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures.
"This underlines how much elections matter," Sabato said.


Filed under: Same-sex marriage • Virginia
soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    My fainting couch! Quickly, somebody fetch me my fainting couch!

    January 23, 2014 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  2. Malory Archer

    tom l

    @Rudy,
    "True story. I received a post card, enclosed inside of a letter through the mail last summer, which read, "Our records show that [my name] is a registered voter at [my address]. If this is not the case, then please return the enclosed post card," I read it and laughed, for at least they were trying to verify the voting records."
    ====

    Perhaps unwittingly you have just made the case for voter ID cards.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Yeah, except voter ID cards aren't going to stop mail-in ballot fraud which virtually every instance of "voter fraud" is taking place, and even those cases are almost non-existent.

    January 23, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    "Fifty-seven percent of Virginians voted to approve the same-sex marriage ban in 2006. But recent polling in the commonwealth indicates that a slight majority now support same-sex marriage."
    ----------------------------------
    Conducting a referendum that allows the majority to decide the rights and priviliges of the minority is not Democracy. The minority will ALWAYS lose such a vote. It also go against The Constitution, which guarantees equal rights for everyone.

    January 23, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  4. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Wrong side of history. I dont like the idea, two people of the same sex getting married. But with that said, i refuse to put my energy into stoping them. I have my own life to worry about.
    Why so much anger and hatred towards gay couples?

    January 23, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  5. Va Voter

    WOOHOO!!! it's about time ALL of my beautiful friends can get married!!

    January 23, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  6. A True Conservative

    Please tell me how the law is unconstitutional.......what right do I have as a heterosexual that a homosexual does not? I am allowed to marry anyone of the opposite sex that I choose to....just as they are......this is simply ridiculous. What's next? Redifine the word human to mean some other life form?

    January 23, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    We shouldn't be using referendums and majority rule to decide the rights of the minority, anyway.

    January 23, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  8. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    There is no way to stop Fate. Gay people are everywhere. So why bother? And they are getting more and more powerful. Let them get married,who cares. But they should never adopt children.

    January 23, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  9. I Got this!

    This pink money will not only collapse the greatest nation on earth but it will also send you to sheol

    January 23, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  10. emskadittle

    in the end the US Constitution always prevails

    January 23, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Thank goodness AG Herring won the election. If that other guy would have won, this ban would have been indefinite.

    January 23, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  12. much thunder...little rain

    i winder why he did use that in his campain....gutless

    January 23, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. Silence DoGood

    @I Got this! "..... will not only collapse the greatest nation on earth but it will also send you to sheol" (hades)
    --------
    #1 diversity and tolerance Makes us the Great Nation we are.
    #2 what you have said has been said in the past about mixed race marriage, women voting and all colors drinking from the same water fountain. We are stronger after each civil rights gain.

    January 23, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. Thomas

    Eric Cantor will be happy !

    January 23, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. Sniffit

    "first job of Virginia's Attorney General is to be the Commonwealth's law firm, and to defend the duly passed laws of Commonwealth,""

    Funny you should mention that, because according to the Constitution and various sections thereof, including the Supremacy Clause, which VA signed on to be a party to and obey right from the beginning, these laws were not DULY passed.

    January 23, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  16. rs

    Times change, cultures change, realities change. 50 years ago there could not be interracial couples. 75 years ago Blacks could not stay in most motels or eat in most restaurants, 100 years ago women couldn't vote. All of these things have changes- America got better and stronger.

    January 23, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  17. Sniffit

    "The first job of Virginia's Attorney General is to be the Commonwealth's law firm, and to defend the duly passed laws of Commonwealth"

    Key words: duly passed. These laws were not duly passed because they violate the Constitution and it is inherent in the AG's power and authority to make that determination and decide how, and on which side, of the issue the state should stand. The AG is not "the state's law firm" in the sense of being tasked with mindlessly defending whatever nonsense legislation or twisted attempts to amend the state constitution in violation of the federal Constitution that the political parties in control come up with. His office represents ALL the people of VA, not just those who were duped into thinking they have the right to vote to violate an unpopular minority's civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

    January 23, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  18. Warren

    I Got this!
    This pink money will not only collapse the greatest nation on earth but it will also send you to sheol

    Typical Republican..

    January 23, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. Silence DoGood

    @rs
    Times change, cultures change, realities change. 50 years ago there could not be interracial couples. 75 years ago Blacks could not stay in most motels or eat in most restaurants, 100 years ago women couldn't vote. All of these things have changes- America got better and stronger.
    ----------
    And it always seems to be the Radical Religious folks, not content to find God their own way, telling us "No really, THIS time for sure we are Sinners and are all going to destroy this country. No really. Not kidding this time."

    January 23, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. wendel

    get er done then move on. WE keep wasting time on personel issues . Lets worry about the big stuff like jobs and education and climate change and renewable energy. Thing that effect everyone.

    January 23, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  21. MilitaryAF

    And the SSM bans all keep tumbling down...

    January 23, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  22. Billy Bob

    It must be nice to just skip parts of your job when you don't feel like doing them.

    January 23, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    SilenceDoGood wrote:

    And it always seems to be the Radical Religious folks, not content to find God their own way, telling us "No really, THIS time for sure we are Sinners and are all going to destroy this country. No really. Not kidding this time."
    ---------------------------
    I think the term "radical religious" is an inaccurate understatement, but it's close enough. We are dealing with a set of people whose ideology says that backing down on your ideals, morals, beliefs, principles, or whatever they want to call it, is a SIN. Such an attitude makes compromise absolutely impossible to achieve, and goes against everything that our democratic republic was founded and built upon. So, is it really any small wonder that they hate government?

    January 23, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. The Real Tom Paine

    -A True Conservative

    Please tell me how the law is unconstitutional.......what right do I have as a heterosexual that a homosexual does not? I am allowed to marry anyone of the opposite sex that I choose to....just as they are......this is simply ridiculous. What's next? Redifine the word human to mean some other life form?
    *************************
    If you actually were what you say you are, you would realize how absurd your statement actually is. A popular vote to prevent an unpopular minority from getting married to whomever they love does not place them on a equal footing with heterosexuals, and is not constitutional. By the way, don't bother drawing in arguments about people marrying their dogs, since that would require legal consent. Please go back to drawing incorrect conclusions from crunching climate change data in your spare time: at least then you were entertaining when you were lying.

    January 23, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. julnor

    Can the SCOTUS just finally do their job and rule on this one way or the other? Their combined rulings on Prop 8 and DOMA were a fine example of judicial incompetence and cowardice.

    January 23, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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