Virginia attorney general: state's same-sex marriage ban unlawful
January 23rd, 2014
09:12 AM ET
9 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. The Real Tom Paine

    The people opposing this are the same absolutists who cannot compromise, even when its in their own best interests.

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

    Next up, Federal government intervenes in fish licensing.

    January 23, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. ellid

    As another domino falls...

    Prediction: same-sex marriage will be legal throughout the United States within ten years, tops, quite possibly due to a SCOTUS decision on one of these foolish, foolish state bans.

    January 23, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  4. Bill the Cat

    @Rudy NYC

    "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."

    You do realize that the Constitution itself was passed by a vote, right?

    January 23, 2014 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Silence DoGood

    @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?
    --------–
    The founders of this country, a mix of theists, deists, Masons, Agnostics, Catholics, oh yeah and other Christians would be very saddened by this movement toward Theocracy. And yes, the no compromise thing would stick in their craw too.
    “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
    -Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813

    January 23, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  6. cedarEyes

    The voters of the state voted to ban "same-sex marriage" so it should be this guy's job to uphold that vote, not a "poll" where everyone who voted didn't participated in If he's going to ignore the will of the people of Virginia then he doesn't need to be attorney general for Virginia.

    January 23, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. Econ301

    Bill the Cat.

    IT was also ratified by 3/4ths of the states, instead of just being a simple majority vote.

    January 23, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. 2 Km N of GZero

    Mr. Perkins thinks gay marriage equals "lawlessness"?

    January 23, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Bill the Cat wrote:

    "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."

    You do realize that the Constitution itself was passed by a vote, right?
    ------------------------–
    You do realize that you're talking complete nonsense, right? You're suggesting that you have the right to violate the Constittion because you voted on something, it passed, so that means that its' constitutional. I'd like to hear you tell that to 2nd Amendment advocate. "Hey, the majority voted to take away your guns. Hold 'em up."

    January 23, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. Silence DoGood

    @Billy Bob
    Next up, Federal government intervenes in fish licensing.
    --------
    If a State says I cannot have a fishing license because of what I believe, yes, fire up MY government to preserve MY rights. The federal government intervened in drinking fountain signs that said "whites only". Freedom and Rights are scary, but you have to get over it.

    January 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    -Bill the Cat

    @Rudy NYC

    "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."

    You do realize that the Constitution itself was passed by a vote, right?
    *******************
    Yes it was. It was also put together by representatives from the states who worked together to forge a compromise that everyone could live with. A referendum does not always signify good law, and having a pointless one to cater to one political party, as the 2006 votes in VA was, is not good law: its codifying bigotry.

    January 23, 2014 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Silence quoted:

    The founders of this country, a mix of theists, deists, Masons, Agnostics, Catholics, oh yeah and other Christians would be very saddened by this movement toward Theocracy. And yes, the no compromise thing would stick in their craw too.

    “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
    -Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813
    ----------------------------–
    When I said the term "radical religious" is an understatement, I really mean it. They're not religious in the typical god worship sense. The religion for these folks is capitalism. Capitalist imperialism would be a more exact term, which is exactly what Karl Marx and Ayn Rand wrote and dreamed about.

    January 23, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. Fair is Fair

    ellid

    As another domino falls...

    Prediction: same-sex marriage will be legal throughout the United States within ten years, tops, quite possibly due to a SCOTUS decision on one of these foolish, foolish state bans.
    --------–
    It won't be 10 years... not even 5.

    January 23, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. sly

    Yawn ... obviously gays will be allowed to marry in all states in the next couple of years.

    It's called progress. Remember when White Men prohibited all women from voting? Then, about 20 years ago, White Men finally allowed minorities to vote. Ok, maybe 30 years ago.

    The time of the White Male Dictators in America is over.

    January 23, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  15. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Bill the Cat wrote:

    "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."

    You do realize that the Constitution itself was passed by a vote, right?
    --------–
    You do realize that you're talking complete nonsense, right? You're suggesting that you have the right to violate the Constittion because you voted on something, it passed, so that means that its' constitutional. I'd like to hear you tell that to 2nd Amendment advocate. "Hey, the majority voted to take away your guns. Hold 'em up."
    --------
    The difference is that the 2nd Ammendment clearly and specifically defines the right to keep and bear arms. Nowhere does the Constitition define the "right to get married". That is why the SCOTUS must take this up and make it settled law.

    January 23, 2014 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. ProudDem

    I simply don't understand the opposition to this. A gay couple getting married doesn't affect YOU at all, anymore than a straight couple down the block getting married does. What business is it of yours if they do? What business is it of the government? You can't cry UNCONSTITUTIONAL at the drop of a hat about things you don't like...gun control, EPA, whatever...and then complain when someone uses the same argument about marriage equality. There is nothing in it about defining a marriage one way or the other. It does say that all should be treated equally.

    January 23, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. DJL329

    cedarEyes said:

    "The voters of the state voted to ban "same-sex marriage" so it should be this guy's job to uphold that vote, not a "poll" where everyone who voted didn't participated in If he's going to ignore the will of the people of Virginia then he doesn't need to be attorney general for Virginia."
    ---

    Someone needs to take civics class and learn about the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Civil rights are not up to majority vote in this country. And yes, marriage is a civil right, as the Supreme Court declared in their Loving v. Virginia decision.

    January 23, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  18. Econ301

    Fair is Fair,

    The SCOTUS already has ruled that Marriage is an unenumerated right.

    January 23, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    The difference is that the 2nd Ammendment clearly and specifically defines the right to keep and bear arms. Nowhere does the Constitition define the "right to get married". That is why the SCOTUS must take this up and make it settled law.
    ------------------------------
    The 14th Amendment prohibits states from passing laws that deny people equal rights. The SCOTUS cannot "take this up". Cases must be brought before it, like DOMA, which has made it settle law.

    January 23, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  20. TB

    Whew, now I should be ok to enjoy my 9 year old neighbor. She loves when I touch her. Thank you Mr. Herring for making it ok for me to be with the one I love. VA is for lovers!

    January 23, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. confused

    I am a little confused. Does the trial continue? It seems to me you would want a decision by the supreme court so it would be legal/required country wide instead of just adding Virginia. It seems if you don't want gay marriage then you would not want a supreme court decision making it legal everywhere. I agree with Scalia, once you say that the Federal Government cannot discriminate, states cannot discriminate either. It seems so funny to me that you can be married in one state and get sick or die in another and your spouse could not see you or claim the body. And that state would issue the death certificate and it would say single instead of married.

    January 23, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Why the uproar over a non issue? If my gay friends want to marry, God Bless them. The right wing always fights yesterdays battles.

    January 23, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  23. rs

    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."
    _______________
    You are right. I would add that there are some religious bodies who are adapting to the changing landscape. Those stuck in their literalist interpretation (of anything) are the ones now in a time warp- and are not significantly different from those we find ourselves fighting in the Middle East. Thought and understanding it seems is beyond their ability.

    January 23, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  24. confused

    The funny part is that everyone who wants "majority rules" and not "rights of the individual", are going to be quite upset when the majority becomes the minority which is not far off. They need to be passing laws that protect the minority so that when it happens they are not controlled by the new majority. Or you can hope they are nicer to you than you were to them.

    January 23, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  25. J Russ

    "Billy Bob Next up, Federal government intervenes in fish licensing"

    Actually they already have, I'm required to by VA to report all catches to VA to avoid VA from falling under the federal fishing regulations.

    January 23, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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