Virginia's Attorney General will not defend Marriage Equality ban

Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring has changed his position on marriage equality by stating that his office will no longer continue to defend Virginia’s ban on marriage equality.

Herring was sworn in a few days ago after a narrow win this past November. The election identified a big political change in Virginia, which also brought Democrat Terry McAuliffe to the governor's office. Herring is taking over for Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who lost the election for governor and was an ardent defender of the ban on marriage equality.

"As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians' rights," Herring said. "The commonwealth will be siding with the plaintiffs in this case and with every other Virginia couple whose right to marry is being denied."

Bostic v. Rainey is one of those cases that are being closely watched. The lawyers challenging the Virginia ban, for example, are David Boies and Ted Olson, who represented the couples who took California's ban on gay marriage all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.                                                                                                              

Back in September, when Boies and Olson announced they were joining the case, they said they saw the California Proposition 8 case as the beginning "of our fight for marriage equality. What we're hoping, with the case in Virginia, [is] it's the beginning of the end," Boies said

Herring said that his job is to defend laws that are constitutional. This one, he said, isn't. Also, Herring added, he wants his state to be on the right side of history.

"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 goingto 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."

Herring shared that this issue has been a personal journey for him. In 2006, as a member of the state Senate, he voted against marriage equality.

"I was wrong for not applying it to marriage," Herring said. "I saw very soon after that how that hurt a lot of people and it was very painful for a lot of people."

After talking to Virginia voters and his family, including his children, he came to "see the issue differently."

Attorney General Herring's change is a great example of how a person's heart can be softened about marriage equality by gaining an understanding that the love shared by two people is the same regardless of the gender make-up of the loving couple. His courage to acknowledge his change of heart publicly is admirable.

NPR has the full story.