Mark Herring, the State of Virginia’s Attorney General, has said Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. He will not defend a proposed ban against same-sex marriage when the issue is raised in federal court next week.
“As Attorney General, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights. The commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied,” Herring said in an interview to NPR.
Herring, a Democrat, defeated his Republican opponent, Mark Obenshain, in the Nov. 5, 2013 Virginia Attorney General election by fewer than 1,000 votes. He assumed office on Jan. 11, 2014.
Herring originally voted for the state’s ban in 2006 when he was a state senator. It passed with 57 per cent of the vote. However, a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in July 2013 found that 50 per cent of registered voters in Virginia are now for same-sex marriage. Herring is one of many who appears to have reversed his position.
“There have been times in some key landmark cases where Virginia was on the wrong side, was on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of the law,” Herring told NPR (National Public Radio). He added that he wanted to start seeing his state on the right side of history.
Herring’s statements follow the recent federal court rulings ending same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma. Seventeen U.S. states, as well as Washington D.C., all recognize same-sex marriage. No southern states have legalized same-sex marriage to date.