HARRISONBURG — Attorney General Mark Herring announced Thursday that Virginia would change course and not support a ban on same-sex marriage in federal court.
“I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right,” the Democrat said during a press conference in Richmond.
A voter referendum, following General Assembly approval, is needed to change the state constitution to allow gay marriage. In 2006, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment to recognize marriage only as between heterosexual couples.
But the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which will hear arguments on a challenge to the same-sex ban next week, could also rule the amendment unconstitutional, striking it down.
Herring said his decision is based on a thorough legal review, and not political opinion. His predecessor, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, adamantly supported keeping marriage between a man and a woman.
Herring’s opponent in last year’s election, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, would have kept the same course as Cuccinelli.
“It is deeply inappropriate for the attorney general to use state resources to actively oppose a duly ratified constitutional amendment. Through this decision, Herring is effectively seeking to unilaterally reverse the actions of the General Assembly in adopting the amendment, and the people of Virginia in ratifying it,” Obenshain said in a prepared statement.
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