What a difference an election makes! Mark Herring, Virginia's new Democratic Attorney General, announced that he has concluded that the state's marriage discrimination amendment is unconstitutional and he will not defend it in court.
Herring won the Virginia attorney general race in November by just 165 votes -- a margin of victory of less than one one-hundredth of one percent.
From the Associated Press:
Virginia, widely considered a battleground state in the nationwide fight to grant same-sex couples the right to wed, will instead side with the plaintiffs who are seeking to have the ban struck down, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring said in an email to The Associated Press.
"After a thorough legal review of the matter, Attorney General Herring has concluded that Virginia's current ban is in violation of the U.S. constitution and he will not defend it," spokesman Michael Kelly wrote.
Herring, who campaigned in part on marriage equality, planned to file a brief Thursday morning with the federal court in Norfolk, where one of the lawsuits is being heard, as notification of the state's change in position in the case, Kelly said.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes that Herring's personal position on the issue has evolved:
Herring's move marks a dramatic shift from his previous position on marriage equality. In 2006, as a state senator from Loudoun County, he voted for the ban on same-sex marriage. He says that in recent years, he changed his views.
"I talked to a lot of people, I thought a lot about it, talked to my family and I have seen how I would not want the state to tell my son or my daughter who they can and cannot marry," Herring said last August.
There are currently two federal-level marriage equality cases in Virginia -- one filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, the other by the American Foundation for Equal Rights legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies.
Both legal teams reacted enthusiastically to Attorney General Herring's announcement, with Olson calling it "a great day for the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Two related case filings, via Kathleen Perrin of Equality Case Files, are after the jump.