Herring, Virginia's attorney general, announced today he is switching sides in the gay marriage debate.
From The N.Y. Times:
Mr. Herring, a Democrat and former state senator, narrowly defeated Mark Obenshain, a Republican state senator, in the November general election in which Democrats also won the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices.
On Thursday, Michael Kelly, a spokeswoman for Mr. Herring, said the attorney general’s office planned to file a brief in federal court in Norfolk — where a lawsuit challenging the ban is being heard — to notify the court of the state’s change in position.
“The Commonwealth will side with the plaintiffs in seeking to have the ban declared unconstitutional,” Mr. Kelly said in an email.
“While Virginia has a storied place in the founding of our nation and has contributed to the development of our democracy, it has also been on the wrong side of court cases involving school desegregation, interracial marriage, and state-supported single-sex education,” Mr. Kelly said. He said Mr. Herring planned to say at a news conference Thursday morning, “It’s time for Virginia to be on the right side of the law, and the right side of history.”
The Richmond Times-Dispatch adds this:
House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, this morning criticized new Democratic Attorney General Mark R. Herring for his decision not to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage while the move was praised by civil liberties groups.
Herring said he he would not defend the constitutionality of the ban in Norfolk, where two same-sex couples are suing to overturn.
“Less than two weeks ago, Mark Herring took an oath and swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Virginia. I am very concerned about his announcement today and the dangerous precedent it sets with regard to the rule of law," Howell said in a statement.
“The attorney general has a constitutional and statutory obligation to enforce and defend the duly adopted laws and Constitution of Virginia. This is not an obligation that can be taken lightly. The attorney general’s decision today demonstrates a great deal of disregard for that obligation, as well as the legislative and democratic processes by which those laws are adopted,” Howell's statement said.
Here's a link to Herring's interview on NPR's Morning Edition.
"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. And as attorney general, I'm going to make sure that the [people] presenting the state's legal position on behalf of the people of Virginia are on the right side of history and on the right side of the law."