AG Herring and Others Speak as the Dust Settles in Norfolk
Following the landmark hearing held this morning, Attorney General Mark Herring and the plaintiff team gathered together for a post hearing press conference near the Norfolk District Court.
“Today was a significant day in the journey for equality for all Virginians,” said Herring. “I am proud to say today that Virginia stood on the right side of the law, and the right side of history when it comes to this discriminatory ban.”
Herring’s choice to not defend the state’s ban comes from a combination of loose campaign promises and his office’s internal review of the constitutionality of the law. He’s since come under fire from House Republicans for taking this position, some have asked for his resignation over the issue.
But Herring continued to defend his choice. “…Despite claims to the contrary, my action in this case has not ended the marriage ban, nor has it (ended) the court case, nor does it mean the marriage ban is being decided in court. This case is fundamentally about whether Virginia can fundamentally treat same-sex couples as second class citizens, or whether the US Constitution truly guarantees equality under the law.”
One of the plaintiffs, Mary Townley, also spoke at the press conference. Townley brought her wife Carol and her daughter Emily with her on stage to show her family was just like a heterosexual family except for one big issue.
“One thing that’s different is because of Virginian’s current marriage laws. Carol is not recognized as my wife, even though we were married in California in 2008,” said Townley. “Virginia does not acknowledge our marriage, nor can we get married in our own state.” As parents, we want the best for our daughter, and we know that it would mean a lot to her if our family was treated just like every other family.”
Thomas B. Shuttleworth, a member of the plaintiff’s legal team, spoke briefly to mention the rarity, in his 40-some years of experience, that he sees someone in the Norfolk District Court asking for something so simple.
“We see people come into the court asking for money, asking to be kept out of jail, asking, they are always asking,” said Shuttleworth. “It struck me that, today, these people (the plaintiffs) just want to get married, and they’re not asking for anything that everybody else doesn’t already have. They ought to be granted that.”
When the conference opened up for questions, Herring’s refusal to defend the ban was called into questions again.
“During the campaign I said, particularly following the Windsor and Prop 8 case, I was very skeptical that the law would pass constitutional muster,” said Herring. “[I said on the campaign] If elected, I would review with experts to determine whether I thought the law was constitutional and i said I did not believe an Attorney General should defend laws that are not constitutional.”
Ted Olson, one of the leading attorneys for the plaintiffs, went on to defend Herrings move. “What he did was courageous… he looked at the constitution of the US and the constitution of Virginia and found that they were inconsistent in terms of recognizing the equality of citizens of Virginia. So he’s defending, not only the Constitution of the United States, he’s also defending the citizens of Virginia who are a victim of discrimination,” said Olson.
You can read more about today’s hearing here. The Judge said we could expect a hearing “soon,” an appeal is expected no matter the outcome, and all legal experts on the panel today said they expected the case to be heard at the Supreme Court before Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage will be altered in any way.
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