AG Herring: “I was in the Supreme Court standing up for equal treatment for all Virginians”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring was among those in the room for today’s landmark hearing on same-sex marriage.
While Virginia’s challenge wasn’t on the docket, the AG sat in on oral arguments and called today’s hearing a “historic moment.”
“I’m proud to have played a part in the conversation to help move marriage equality forward,” said Herring in a phone call shortly after leaving the Court house today.
While he said it wasn’t a great idea to read too much into the Justice’s questions and comments during the hearing today, Herring noticed a few points which might show support for LGBTQ Virginians.
“The chief justice [Roberts] speculated that the case could be decided on ‘equal protection’ grounds as gender discrimination,” said Herring. “Which would indicated the state would have a really tough burden to overcome in trying to get marriage bans upheld.”
The equal protection clause of the constitution, which states no state should “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” has been the winning argument against same-sex marriage bans around the nation, leading to 36 states striking their bans down.
Herring said most of the arguments used against same-sex marriage today relied on arguments we’d heard before – things like gay couples can’t birth children or their families are inferior because they lack different sex parents.
“I thought the solicitor general’s closing was really strong,” said Herring about the rebuttal to the child rearing argument. “He said [it was] ‘untenable,’ he underscored untenable, to leave same-sex couples and their families as second class citizens.”
Herring admitted tough questions were asked of both sides, but he also noticed Justice Kennedy say “pretty clearly that he did not accepted the state’s premise that same-sex couples and their families could not have as dignified a relationship as opposite sex couples”
Herring, who stuggled to clarify his stance with Virginia’s LGBTQs on the campaign trail, but made himself known as an ally shortly after taking office, said a victory for same-sex marriage today would make a good case for future LGBTQ issues – a fight he acknowledged as ongoing.
“I think that’s the direction this movement is going,” said Herring. “But we also have plenty of important work to do in housing, employment, public accommodation, and a number of areas where we need to keep the momentum going.”
Throughout this legal battle – from Norfolk, to Richmond, and now to SCOTUS – Herring has been unabashed in his concerns about how Virginia will look in the history books on this issue.
The Commonwealth has an unfavorable past when it comes to civil rights. Like in Loving vs. Virginia over interracial marriage and Davis v. Prince Edward County, which was combined into Brown vs. Board of Education, over school segregation, Virginia continued to be on the losing side of civil rights history.
But in Herrings eyes, this time would be different.
“In times in decades past, we’ve argued on the wrong side of key, landmark civil rights cases,” Herring said. “This time, I was in the Supreme Court standing up for equal treatment for all Virginians,”
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