Judge Vows Quick Ruling on Va. Gay Marriage Ban
The battle over gay marriage is heating up in Virginia. A federal judge in Norfolk heard arguments this week on whether the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.
Dozens of demonstrators stood outside the federal courthouse holding signs in support of traditional marriage and in protest of the decision by newly elected Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, to not defend the state's ban on gay marriage.
In 2006, 57 percent of Virginia voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
However, in court, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that sometimes voters and lawmakers get it wrong, and that's why a judge is in place to remedy that.
It's an argument gay rights advocates support.
"I would applaud Attorney General Herring's decision to stand firm," Rev. Mark Byrd, with New Life Metropolitan Community Church, said.
Herring decided not only to stop defending the voter-approved ban, but also to side with the plaintiffs -- gay couples who sued to overturn the law on the grounds that it's unconstitutional.
"I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right, and I intend to ensure that Virginia is on the right side of history and on the right side of the law," Herring said.
Bishop E.W. Jackson, a former Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, called Herring's position sad.
"It's sad that we have an attorney general who has told Christians and other believers in traditional marriage that we're on the wrong side of history, that somehow we're hateful of others, that we want to destroy the rights of others. No, we love God; we love people, but we believe that there is right and wrong," Jackson said.
Some argue that Herring doesn't have the right as the state attorney general to decide which laws he will or won't support.
"You look at the highest law enforcement officer in this state and what he has done and the way that he has...his dereliction of duty and I think it's unacceptable," Joshua Duggar, with the Family Research Council Action Committee, said.
Alison Howard, with Concerned Women for America, said, "If he took an oath on a Constitution that he did not believe in and certain parts that he wanted to change then he should have sought a different line of work."
Virginia State Delegate Todd Gilbert agreed, saying Herring is violating his sworn duty and the will of the people. Gilbert is co-author of a measure that passed the Virginia House on Monday. The bill allows state lawmakers to defend a state law in court if the governor and attorney general refuse to do so.
"The attorney general does not have the authority to unilaterally make that decision for the people. And he unequivocally should not be using taxpayer resources to fight to overturn a constitutional provision that the voters adopted by an overwhelming majority," Gilbert said in the weekly Virginia GOP address.
John Suthers, the Republican attorney general of Colorado, wrote in the Washington Post that his colleagues should not be able to simply decide what laws they will or won't support. He said that undermines the American system of checks and balances.
"I personally oppose a number of Colorado's laws as a matter of public policy, and a few are contrary to my religious beliefs. But as my state's attorney general, I have defended them all -- and will continue to," he wrote.
In Virginia, Alliance Defending Freedom is now helping to defend traditional marriage.
"We're hopeful that there's no lawlessness and that the laws enacted by Virginians since the 1600s of marriage being one man and one woman will be upheld, and the law will prevail, and the voice of Virginians will prevail," Austin Nimocks, senior legal counsel with the ADF, said.
The judge said she will issue a ruling soon.