Newly elected Virginia Atty. Gen.
The decision follows recent federal court opinions striking down gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma. Herring, after instructing his office to review the lawsuit challenging the law, concluded the statute is discriminatory because it denies some citizens the fundamental right to marry.
"Having exercised his independent constitutional judgment, consistent with his oath of office, the attorney general has concluded that Virginia's laws denying the right to marry to same-sex couples violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution," he wrote in his opinion to the federal court in Norfolk.
The Virginia ban was approved by voters in 2006, with 57% of voters in favor. Since then, public opinion on the issue has shifted. In 2013, a majority of registered voters -- 56% -- said gay marriage should be legal, according to a
A Democrat, Herring’s announcement reverses the position of his predecessor, Republican
Although Herring's decision now puts the state on the side of those challenging the law, today's brief instructs state officials to continue enforcing the statute while the courts are deciding the matter.
An attorney for the Virginia plaintiffs, Theodore B. Olson, who also helped defeat California’s
"As a Virginian and a conservative, I believe these laws stand against the very principles of our nation's founding," he said in a statement. "Virginia's laws violate core personal freedoms. They are humiliating and demeaning, and they harm loving families."
[For the Record, 10:31 a.m. PST Jan. 23: An earlier version of this post said Virginia Atty. Gen.