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Following a seismic political shift in Virginia's top elected offices, the new attorney general has concluded that the state's ...
ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and he will no longer defend it in federal lawsuits. (Jan. 23)
Tags:ap,AP News,Associated Press,virginia attorney general,virginia gay marriage ban,virginia lbgt rights,Brown vs. Board of Education
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SHOTLIST:ABC POOL - AP CLIENTS ONLYRichmond, Virginia - January 23, 20141. SOUNDBITE (English) Mark Herring, Virginia Attorney General"Having determined through thorough, rigorous legal analysis that an unconstitutional law is infringing on the rights of Virginia families... I have the duty and authority to act to protect them and their rights."+++Black space between SOTs+++2. SOUNDBITE (English) Mark Herring, Virginia Attorney General"Until the courts can rule on the matter.. the state registrar Janet Rainey will continue to enforce the current ban but neither she nor I will defend its constitutionality."+++Black space between SOTs+++3. SOUNDBITE (English) Mark Herring, Virginia Attorney General"Even as courageous Virginians have advanced the cause of equality.. the commonwealth of Virginia has too often argued on the wrong side of our nation's landmark Supreme Court cases. With Prince Edward County as defendant in the landmark school desegregation case of Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.. with the commonwealth fighting the right for Mildred and Richard Loving to marry despite their race in 1967 in the Loving decision.. and in 1996 to oppose opening VMI to female cadets.. the same legal principles that applied in those cases apply in this case today."+++Black space between SOTs+++4. SOUNDBITE (English) Mark Herring, Virginia Attorney General"As a legislator in 2006 I voted against the right of same-sex couples to marry. Even at that time I spoke about the need to fight other forms of discrimination against Virginians based on their sexual orientation. But I was wrong to stop short of marriage equality."+++Black space between SOTs+++5. SOUNDBITE (English) Mark Herring, Virginia Attorney General"It's time for the commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law."+++Black space between SOTs+++6. SOUNDBITE (English) Mark Herring, Virginia Attorney General"So a state law and a state constitution cannot violate the United States Constitution and I swore a duty to uphold both and the Supreme Court is clear.. the United States Constitution is the law of the land.. supreme law of the land."+++Black space between SOTs+++7. SOUNDBITE (English) Mark Herring, Virginia Attorney General"I have just come to the conclusion that I wouldn't want the state telling my son or my daughter who they can and cannot marry."+++Black space between SOTs+++8. Herring walks away from podiumSTORYLINE:In a move that could give gay marriage its first foothold in the South, Virginia's attorney general said Thursday he concluded the state's ban on same-sex unions is unconstitutional and he will join the fight against it.Newly-elected Democratic Attorney General Mark R. Herring said he would support gay couples who have filed lawsuits challenging the state's ban. Herring's announcement comes on the heels of court rulings in which federal judges struck down gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma. Currently the District of Columbia and 17 states allow gay marriage, most of them clustered in the Northeast. None of them are in the old Confederacy.Herring's announcement comes weeks after Democrats swept the top of the November ballot and took office, changing the state's political landscape. With the election of Democrats Terry McAuliffe as governor and Herring as attorney general, Virginia made a hairpin turn away from the socially conservative officeholders they succeeded, particularly Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, an activist on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.McAuliffe issued an executive order on inauguration day prohibiting discrimination against state employees who are gay. Virginia voters approved the same-sex marriage ban 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006. But a Quinnipiac University poll in July found that 50 percent of registered Virginia voters support same-sex marriage, while 43 percent oppose it.The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. It is not the first time an attorney general has decided to stop defending their state's gay marriage ban. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Kathleen Kane said last year that she would stop defending that state's gay marriage ban, also calling it unconstitutional. An outside law firm was hired to represent the state in a lawsuit over the ban.