Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli said he defended the gay marriage ban not because of his beliefs, but because it was his duty.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring sparked controversy when he announced he wouldn't defend the commonwealth's ban on same-sex marriage. Now, Herring's predecessor, Ken Cuccinelli, says that move was a dereliction of duty.
Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has always been a staunch defender of conservative causes, including "traditional marriage." But he says that's not why he defended Virginia's ban on same sex marriage in court. As attorney general, he says, voters have hired you to defend state laws whether you like those laws or not.
If you're going to run for attorney general, this is part of the job," Cuccinelli says. "If you're not willing to do it, you ought not run."
Brian Moulton, legal director with the Human Rights Campaign, says when obligations to state law and the U.S. Constitution clash, an attorney general may opt not to defend the state law.
"By and large, that's what attorneys general do, is defend the laws of the state, but they also have an obligation to the United States Constitution," Moulton says.
Cuccinelli says such actions undermine the rule of law.
"This leads to chaos in the law, and tyranny in the exercise of power," he says.
So far, attorneys general in seven states have declined to defend same-sex marriage bans.