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‘I wouldn’t want the state telling my son or my daughter who they can and cannot marry’

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RICHMOND,  Va. (WTVR/CNN) - "I wouldn't want the state telling my son or my daughter who they can and cannot marry," newly-elected Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said Thursday when asked what changed from his 2006 vote in support of a same-sex marriage ban in Virginia to today's announcement that his office will change Virginia's position on the ban.

"I saw how that vote hurt a lot of people. It was painful for a lot of people," Herring said. "I continued to think about it. Just like Americans everywhere continue to think about this issue."

He said friends, family and constituents questioned whether his 2006 vote was the right one.

Earlier Thursday Herring filed a brief with the federal court in Norfolk to let them know about the change in Virginia's position in the case of Bostic v. Rainey, a challenge to Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage

"The Commonwealth will side with the plaintiffs in seeking to have the ban declared unconstitutional," Herring spokesman Michael Kelly wrote in an email.

Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William Howell (R - Stafford) said he was concerned with Herring's announcement.

“Less than two weeks ago, Mark Herring took an oath and swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Virginia. I am very concerned about his announcement today and the dangerous precedent it sets with regard to the rule of law," Del. Howell wrote in a statement.

Thursday's announcement in Virginia, a crucial battleground state in national politics, comes after federal judges recently struck down similar bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Fifty-seven percent of Virginians voted to approve the same-sex marriage ban in 2006. But recent polling in the commonwealth indicates that a slight majority now support same-sex marriage.

Both supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage quickly weighed in on the move in Virginia.

"Attorney General Herring joins the growing legal and public consensus that barriers to marriage for lesbian and gay couples do not protect anyone and only harm Virginia families," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "This courageous stand on behalf of the Commonwealth plants Virginia firmly on the right side of history."

The Human Rights Campaign describes itself as the country's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

Richmonder Dr. Robin Gorsline can’t contain his excitement and says he and his partner Jonathan are one big step closer to marrying in Virginia, legally.

“Just an incredible moment a wonderful moment of joy,” says Gorsline. “I thought to myself this is what I’ve been praying for.”

Just a few blocks from where the Attorney General announced his decision sits the site in Shockoe Bottom where Thomas Jefferson helped pass the Freedom of Religion act in 1786. Some observers say Herring’s decision could usher in a change that is just as historic both politically and culturally.

Dr. Bob Holsworth says Herring just bolstered Virginia’s growing reputation as a battleground state nationally.

“This is a huge, huge shift for Virginia. My sense is that this has put Virginia right in the heart of gay marriage.”

Others find Herring's stance frightening.

"This lawlessness is an insult to the voters of Virginia who approved the marriage amendment by a large majority. The Left is becoming a law unto itself," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a leading national faith based organization.

There was a similar message from Virginia Republicans.

"It took Mark Herring less than a month to decide he doesn't want to be Attorney General. The first job of Virginia's Attorney General is to be the Commonwealth's law firm, and to defend the duly passed laws of Commonwealth," said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins.

Herring's victory was razor thin. On Election Day he was in a virtual dead heat with Republican Mark Obenshain, another state senator. The race went to a recount, and was not concluded until six weeks after the November election, when Obenshain conceded.


  • E. Hutchinson

    The Attorney General’s job is to enforce Virginia’s laws – not to determine whether to enforce them or not.

    • athynz

      Actually old boy it IS within his job to refuse to defend a law that he feels is unconstitutional. Which is what he is doing.

    • Elsepth

      Actually, his duty is to defend LAWFUL laws. If any enactment of the legislature or the people violates the federal Constitution, he has an ethical obligation NOT to defend the law. If a criminal law in VA is unconstitutional, he has a legal and ethical obligation not to bring, or allow, prosecutions of that law (i.e. the miscegenation laws ruled unconstitutional and therefore illegal by SCOTUS in Loving v VA). Any attorney who brings suti or defends a suit for an illegal law can be brought up on ethics charges or even prosecuted by the feds. Just because it rarely happens doesn’t mean it cannot (and it DOES happen from time to time, just ask Jon Alexander)

    • Melanie Seelig

      There are many that agree with you – but he certainly wouldn’t be the 1st (even his republican predecessor did it)…… ex. per a recent article

      “The Washington Post reports Republican attorneys general have refused to defend other laws recently. Indiana’s Greg Zoeller refused to enforce part of his state’s immigration laws after the Supreme Court struck down similar provisions in Arizona’s SB 1070. In Virginia, Herrings’s predecessor, Ken Cuccinelli, declared one of former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s education reforms to be unconstitutional and announced he would not defend it.”

      So – I get a kick out of people who call this guy lawless b/c of the type of law it is and b/c he’s a democrat – but would likely say nothing if a republican does the same thing.

  • John

    Well soon we’ll be able to have multiple spouses, as some religions beliefs allow for multiple wives! This means no limits on marriage.

    • Old Salt

      Yup, and if someone’s religion permits that, what right has your religion to prohibit it? It’s not the government’s duty to support one religion over another. So, if a Muslim, for example, has three wives, and can and does support them, how, exactly, does that affect your marriage? It doesn’t affect mine. When will Americans learn that our system of government doesn’t permit government to pass laws supporting any specific religion. It’s called the establishment clause.

      • Dana F. Davis

        Poly marriage does effect us in the sense of Federal benefits; social security disability might be on example. If the Fed does not discriminate, and it cannot, then it must extend benefits to ALL of the wives and all of the children. This is one opportunity I would LOVE to take advantage of. The point is the Fed (American taxpayers) cannot afford to be non-discriminatory. Whether we ultimately choose to draw the line here or there, what’s the difference? We cannot afford a perfect equality.

    • James Hamilton

      Jim, you are correct. Liberals can’t pass their preverted agenda with the voters, so they try and get an activist judge to do their bidding for them.

    • Old Salt

      You don’t have the right to pass laws that unconstitutionally violate the rights of others. If the majority of Virginians voted to re-establish slavery, do you think that would pass muster, just because a majority voted for it?

  • athynz

    I see the fear is strong with E. Hutchinson, James Hamilton, and John. Personally I’ve thought the gay marriage ban is ridiculous as is the assumption that gay marriage will lead to multiple wives or worse. If the states make a law defining marriage as a union between 2 consenting adults then there goes the multiple wives (or husbands for that matter) theory. They also need to add language stating that churches are allowed to deny to perform a same sex marriage if their religion demands it. There are churches that allow same sex marriage or they could go with a civil union. And John if you want to bring religion into this – then divorce is also against some religions and yet here we are.

      • Morning Dew

        Actually, the council of Nicea decided what to include in the bible and what to leave out. They used texts that were written by men.

      • Old Salt

        Paul, don’t you find it at all curious that God identified himself to each religion by a different name? How about the fact that He laid down different rules for each one? Since your religion consitutes a minority of the planet’s population, what are the odds that you and your religion are actually the true religion, just because that’s what you believe? God told the Muslims they could have multiple wives. The “laws” to which you refer weren’t laid down by God, they were laid down by men, ostensibly in His name. We’ve done a lot of stupid and immoral things, in His name. Don’t you ever wonder about that? Or are you like that sailor from Arkansas I ran into at sea in the 60s, who insisted that Jesus was a Southern Baptist?

      • athynz

        Actually there are already laws on the books preventing those scenarios so you don’t need to get your frilly pink undergarments in a bunch.

    • Greg Basye

      The point to all this is once you start changing the definition of marriage,where does it end.There are more people living and having children together today than there are those choosing marriage,so my question is why do 2% of the people want to force 98% of people to except there way of thinking. If these people would spend more time living there lives pledged to each other and working on the problems between each other, they would have less time to worry about making the rest of the world think like they do. After all no matter what WE believe, and no matter how mankind, court’s or the govt. change or redefine marriage, the original meaning will always be the same.

      • Carey

        But really, we redefined marriage when we made it about love instead of money and property. Right? RIGHT???????????????.

  • John Steele

    So someone tell me again why “Jury Nullification” is such a sin to the courts?

    Kings do this, Emperors do this, Dictators do this … ELECTED Presidents, Governors and Attorneys General do NOT do this. If he thinks the law is wrong there is an established path to change it, go the the legislature.

    He might ultimately be on the “right” side of history but he is for certain on the WRONG side of the law.

    Gays will be very happy. But the question they need to ask themselves is “he can do THIS now to HELP us … what about the NEXT law he decides not to enforce that HARMS us.

    This is why we have legislatures and executive branches and courts. But Obama has set a precedent for ignoring the law and Obama’s New Improved America 2.0 is little more than a banana republic now.

    • Old Salt

      Laws are passed by men, and sometimes the law IS wrong, and men of conscience must step up and challenge it. Remember Dred Scott?

  • Stickler for the Constitution

    Issue aside, if we are going to have the AG make judicial decisions, what do we need judges for? This action just goes to show you what happens when you elect left wingers.

  • John_Doe

    I still say the big winners in this will be family law attorneys. That many more marriages will mean that many more divorces. Cha-ching!

  • Robo

    Thank you Mr. Herring. This is a good decision, it is similar to civil rights, to go against it is swiming against the tide.

  • Tyranny

    The AG should not be a political figure. Regardless of how you feel on the issue, you work for the people, not your own beliefs. This is the same disgraceful pushing of a political agenda that we have seen in DC. Shame on you!

  • Stephan the Original

    The Attorney General is an idiot. Every man or woman can already marry. Marriage equality already exists. He is actually redefining marriage, not doing anything whatsoever in reference to civil rights. What happens to the millions of people who will NEVER acknowledge such ‘marriages’? Ever think about that, Mr Herring?

    • Dana F. Davis

      Regardless of the state’s decision as to the necessary qualifiers, as an extension of a necessary licensing, or any ceremonial public declaration of any religious persuasion, the majority will never recognize such unions as “marriage.”

    • athynz

      There are too many states and businesses that do not recognize a gay marriage which is an issue when one’s spouse is in a situation that requires the spouse to make major decisions in place of his or her spouse. I can understand churches who’s doctrine does not allow for gay marriages not recognizing them but since there is this separation of church and state there should not be an issue with gay marriage and the government.

  • Sir Robin

    Regardless of which law is in question, it is not the AG’s place to pick and choose which VA law he does or doesn’t wish to defend. It is the law of the Commonwealth and therefore is the AG’s job. Elected officials are not supposed to be able to make these decisions. This is why elections have consequences.

  • Larry

    Why is this nation full of liberal fools that believe that they only have to enforce the laws they agree with? Maybe I will start living by only the laws I agree with.

  • issatrue

    No need to watch the Political Art Antics performed by the new media
    political “celebrities”, on their stages, as performers-in-charge. Democratic Office Holders aren’t too keen on Constitution, Laws or Enforcement of Laws. Mission is to usurp, circumvent, and derail
    for their favorited select that enables their Power through their

  • issatrue

    Seems CBS6 has their own considered, vested, interest in the issue
    as a clear, concise, objective, detached, unbiased “coverage” source.

  • Amanda D

    I’m glad Herring is trying to help VA step away from a legacy of backwards, hateful, discriminatory legislation much like the rest of the civilized world. Glad he got my vote.

  • Kristin Thomas

    Here’s a concept, how about getting government OUT of marriage entirely. Why is the government’s business at all??? Always love to see people cheering on MORE government control into their lives and then wonder where their freedoms have gone…..

  • RAS

    God defines marriage that is enacted in His church. Laws would help morality, but state and federal capitals do not appear to be able to. You go against God, He is the final judge.
    Christians should not waver due to the socially acceptable viewpoints.

    • J-Bo

      And who are you to judge? As a Christian you must realize it is not your place to place judgement on the actions of others. As a Christian you are supposed to love and protect, to allow God to dole out the punishments and judgements in the ever after. You are not trying to usurp the place of God are you? You clearly would not go against your religious text of choice while stating you are defending said text would you?

  • donald

    too much money and time has been wasted on this matter.Either way,just make the call and stick with it.This will drag on forever and our courts have better things to do.One day for,the next not.States deciding then courts over ruling,enough already.


    Why does’nt the bible thumpers stand up against the child
    molesters they produce from their churches the way they
    do this. God is for weak people.

    • Greg

      Your so called bible thumpers stand up for a lot of social wrongs,and while that does not exclude them from having evil people amoung them,they do provide a lot of help to the poor,homeless and to the community’s where they serve.As far as weak,you must be talking about people who know they need a savior unlike you who are strong RIGHT.You just prove the arugement that we all should have to pass a test to check our knowledge of the subject,before we can vote.Then this great nation would not be in the shape it’s in.

  • JT

    All of a sudden, this guy has a change of heart? The voters of Virginia decided this issue already. If the confused mentally defective gays don’t like it, they should move elsewhere. Maybe they should create a gay state, where it’s normal to confuse an anus for a vagina, and confused gays can pretend to play house, pretending to be normal.

  • Dustin Cavanaugh

    People complaining. You are id*ots. Understand this. Let me quote the 14th amendment. Near the end of section 1 “nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” You can be fired for being g*y in 29 states. VA is one of them. G*ys being forbidden to marry the ones they love also denies them rights they would have otherwise under law. Blatant violation. Also, for Christians who say “Marriage is between a man and a woman” we have separation of church and state and Christians didn’t invent marriage. Pagans invented marriage. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are newer religions. They take a lot from pagan religions as well as the Persian religion during around 500 BC “Zoroastrianism” which was the first Monotheistic religion. The only reason people are against this is very simple. You are stupid.

    • Greg

      Dustin I don’t know that you are stupid, but when you go talking about things you should at least get the facts straight so it does not appear so.First marriage was created by GOD, between a man and a woman,adam & eve , the state’s involvement in marriage was for money and control of how many spouses we each could have by law.As far the statement about the separation of church and state,the founding father’s of this great country made sure that was in the constitution so this new government could not form a new religion and force you and me to worship that one. As for homosexuality, in the beginning it was treated as a mental disorder but because of money and politics it was taken off that list and here we are.

  • Polly

    Hoo boy. The alliance of two people to form a family unit (which is what marriage is, right?) has been around a LOT longer than Christianity or the Bible, and is found in *all* ancient and modern cultures, not just those that worship a god of any kind. Marriage is a social institution, regulated by the state for the protection of both parties. So please leave God or god or whatever out of it.

    • Greg

      Polly please, let’s keep to the fact’s, because when we don’t we say all kind’s of thing’s some that do not make sense.Two or more people who choose to live together is just that people living together no more.There are lot’s of reason’s people choose to live together to many to talk about here. The number one reason is commitment or the lack of.Marriage on the other hand (until resent times) has always been a covenant between a man and woman for the purpose of bearing children to keep the human race going,even the ancient cultures new this.Last until about twenty-five years ago almost all marriages were performed in some kind of religious service,and even the ancient cultures had special services honoring their gods.So you see when you take that special part or special meaning out of marriage that this country,and the world has been known for, all you have is a bunch of people thrown in together,living together as a unit, but please don’t call it marriage or a family.So polly you leave GOD out of it, it’s your choice, but for the better part of 200 year’s this country has not,and I hope it never does.

      • Polly

        “even the ancient cultures had special services honoring their gods”…but their god was not the Christian God, right? So how can you say the Christian God ordained marriage?

    • Greg

      Polly name one or more gods from any religion around the world that sent a son to earth to die for all humanity’s sin.Name a god that performed the miracle’s Jesus performed while on earth. Name a god that died on a cross with witnesses,and three days later rose from the dead with witnesses,show me a god that thousand’s of people saw do all these thing’s and offer’s you everything but only ask that you believe in him and passed down that belief to other’s.Name one other god that does not want something from you and I’ll show you the Christian GOD who only want’s to love all people.By the way the only god who claimed to have created everything is the only one who can make that ciaim, the Christian GOD, which include’s marriage.These other’s were great leader’s and great people who were made into god’s by there follower’s,none of them claimed to be god.JUST THE FACT’S

  • Polly

    FYI, at least 20 religions include stories of a “son” sent by his father- god to save the world, then executed and ascended to whatever that religion’s idea of heaven is. These include Odin (a Scandinavian god);
    Zoroaster and Mithra of Persia;Prometheus of Caucasus;Xamolxis of Thrace; Buddha Sakia of India, and many, many others. I would prefer you educate yourself before you pop off. And just remember, even the ancient Greeks and Romans married – and they certainly did not worship the Christian God. Sorry, but you seem to have no idea that the vast majority of people in the world, both the millions who have gone before us and the millions who live today, do not believe as you do. And that’s ok – after all, what others believe has no impact on you, right?

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