Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring leaves Federal Court after a hearing on Virginia's ban on gay marriage in Norfolk, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Herring the state's newly elected Democratic attorney general has already decided to side with the plaintiffs and will not defend the ban.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is cheering a federal judge's ruling that the Commonwealth's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, calling it "an important step towards equality in Virginia."
"Well, it’s really a decision that’s a victory for the Constitution and for treating everyone equally under the law. It’s the latest step in a journey towards equality for all Virginians, no matter who they are or whom they love," he said this morning on NPR's Morning Edition.
It was two weeks ago that Herring appeared on the show to announce that he would not defend the ban, which has been in effect since 2006. On Thursday, Judge Arenda Wright-Allen ruled that the ban is unconstitutional, but stayed the decision pending expected appeals.
Del. Bob Marshall, the Prince William County Republican who authored the 2006 ban, said in a statement that Wright-Allen should be impeached for the decision, one that he said goes against nature and religion.
"Same sex 'marriage' upends thousands of years of societal disapproval of certain sexual behavior and contradicts moral teachings of major religions sanctions against homosexual activity. To imply that one state Judge is smarter than the foundations of humanity is extreme hubris," he said.
The Virginia Catholic Conference also lambasted the decision, calling it a "severe blow to the citizens of our Commonwealth," while Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell said that Herring should have defended the ban regardless of his personal opinion of it.
But speaking on Morning Edition, Herring said that the ruling follows in a long tradition of courts ruling against Virginia in civil rights cases.
"At times, Virginia’s leaders have stood in the way of its citizens moving forward on important civil rights issues. In cases like Brown v. Board of Education, Virginia was on the wrong side on desegregation. In the Loving case… again, Virginia was on the wrong side, arguing in favor of a ban on interracial marriage. And also in U.S. v. Virginia, when it came to admitting female cadets to the Virginia Military Institute, a state college and university. So it was important when you put it in historical context, this case is a landmark ruling," he said.
Herring also guessed that the case could make it to the Supreme Court, potentially leading to a decision on the merits of state-based bans on same-sex marriage.
"This might be one that moves up to the Supreme Court. There are some elements that make it significant," he said.