Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
has announced that his office will no longer defend the state's ban
on gay marriage.
“As attorney general, I cannot and
will not defend laws that violate Virginians' rights,” Herring said
on NPR's Morning Edition. “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, a Democrat, was sworn in just
days ago. He succeeds Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who made an
unsuccessful bid for governor. Cuccinelli and former Republican
Governor Bob McDonnell strongly defended the ban.
The case, Bostic v. Rainey, will
have its first hearing next week.
“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 said.
“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
Herring's decision to change the
state's legal position is certain to create an uproar among
As a member of the state Senate in
2006, Herring voted against marriage equality.
“I saw very soon after that how that
hurt a lot of people and it was very painful for a lot of people,”
The decision carries the possibility of
making the case less likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which
ruled last year that supporters of Proposition 8, California's former
ban, did not have legal standing to defend the law.