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. TheBigT

    Another state giving into the devil and will suffer the depths of HELL.

    January 23, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    @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.
    -----–
    @fair – all rights are not enumerated. There is no where spelled out that I can use Facebook. Do I not have that right? And please stop all the voting nonsense on rights. Human basic rights are not always voted on. I cannot get a majority of a farm state vote to have slaves. Your money would not be lost on a few books on US History.

    January 23, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. just saying

    maybe all of the republican governors and attorney generals should also similarly unilaterally declare all gun control laws unconstitutional and stop enforcing them? no different that what the democrats are doing. if the democrats want anarchy then give them anarchy.

    January 23, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. TheBigT

    Go ahead and continue to sin in the eyes of God. You will all stand before him one day and give an account of why sinning was acceptable.

    January 23, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. kns

    Its the correct decision.

    January 23, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Fred Evil

    So glad I voted for him, glad he won the recount, and I am glad that honor and freedom are being upheld now in VA!

    January 23, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  7. Fred Evil

    "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!"
    Typical disgusting spin meant to churn up emotional responses. Pitiful and pathetic are the first two words to come to mind.

    January 23, 2014 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. skarphace

    A True Conservative: "Please tell me how the law is unconstitutional"

    Because it allows the majority to infringe on the rights of a minority group. Not too hard to grasp.

    "What's next? Redefine the word human to mean some other life form?"

    Well, yes, eventually all intelligent life forms will have the same rights that humans do. We just haven't found any such life forms yet. Why would they not have the same rights? Why should humans have rights that no other intelligent life form in the universe has?

    January 23, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. skarphace

    A True Conservative: "Please tell me how the law is unconsti tutional"

    Because it allows the majority to infringe on the rights of a minority group. Not too hard to grasp.

    "What's next? Redefine the word human to mean some other life form?"

    Well, yes, eventually all intelligent life forms will have the same rights that humans do. We just haven't found any such life forms yet. Why would they not have the same rights? Why should humans have rights that no other intelligent life form in the universe has?

    January 23, 2014 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. skarphace

    Sorry for the double post. I thought it didn't post the first time.

    January 23, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. Fair is Fair

    Econ301

    Fair is Fair,

    The SCOTUS already has ruled that Marriage is an unenumerated right.
    --------
    Nah... it's a civil contract between 2 consenting adults. Ask any of the lefties who use that arguement when it benefits them. BTW, I don't have a dog in this fight. I could care less one way or another.

    January 23, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. sam stone

    ooooh, the depths of hell. pretty scary, for those who believe that tripe

    January 23, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  13. skarphace

    TheBigT: "Go ahead and continue to sin in the eyes of God. You will all stand before him one day and give an account of why sinning was acceptable."

    That is as it should be. Follow the laws of your faith, but do not expect others to do the same. Do not expect your faith to affect the laws of others. Good point.

    January 23, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. skarphace

    just saying: "if the democrats want anarchy then give them anarchy."

    Well, I am not sure how some gay couple down the street from me getting married will result in anarchy. Or do you mean because all those opposed to gay marriage will act as anarchists? That, I can see.

    January 23, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. skarphace

    I have yet to see an argument that explains why gays should not be allowed to marry that does not rely on faith as its premise. Can anybody come up with an argument not based on the Bible but rather based on our Consti tution that supports the outlaw of gay marriage? That, I would like to see.

    January 23, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. SoldierOfConscience

    This is nothing short of dereliction of duty. They should impeach him for it. You are the Attorney General you defend state laws.

    January 23, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Comparing apples to cannon balls there, Amigo. You're an odd one... you call the citizens united decision (which I also disagree with) "perverse", but a decision that allows the termination of human life is perfectly ok with you. Oh, that's right... it's not life. Whatever. If it helps you sleep at night.
    ------------------------
    I respect and honor the decisions made by the SCOTUS. Most liberals and Democrats seem to disagree with Citizens United. But unlike the right wing, you don't seem them passing laws that ignore the court's decision.

    January 23, 2014 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  18. Swedge70

    "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.
    That's some of the most patriotic sounding bigotry I've ever heard. Good job!

    January 23, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  19. The Real Tom Paine

    TheBigT

    Go ahead and continue to sin in the eyes of God. You will all stand before him one day and give an account of why sinning was acceptable.

    ****************

    And we will see you there: hypocrites' section, I believe.

    January 23, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  20. skarphace

    TheBigT: "Another state giving into the devil and will suffer the depths of HELL."

    So the state of Virginia itself will go to hell? There will be land and trees and wolves and squirrels in hell? Cool!

    January 23, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. john

    Get right? Appears you are getting wrong.

    January 23, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  22. Silence DoGood

    @TheBigT
    Go ahead and continue to sin in the eyes of God. You will all stand before him one day and give an account of why sinning was acceptable.
    ----------
    We survived the sins of women voting, mixed race marriage, and prohibition.
    I think our country will survive marrying any consenting adult.
    And I think God is smiling on us.

    January 23, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. Bill, Bloominton IL

    Heterophobics are not in charge

    January 23, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. pauleky

    History will not be kind to the gay haters. Of course, in a country where education is not valued, who really knows? But, those that are educated on the issue today (whether Democrat or Republican) are for equality.

    January 23, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. naota channel

    The people overwhelmingly voted to BAN "gay" marriage.

    That should be the end of it.

    January 23, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
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