This morning Mark Herring, Virginia's new Democratic Attorney General, made headlines when his office announced that it finds the state's marriage discrimination amendment unconstitutional and will no longer defend it in federal court. Herring also went a step further, joining the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the measure.
"It's disappointing that he wouldn't be clear about his intentions on this issue while campaigning for the office. More importantly, it's frightening that politicians like the attorney general feel that they can pick and choose which aspects of the Constitution they deem worth to defend and apply. Whether one agrees with the marriage amendment or not, the idea that over a million Virginia citizens can be left defenseless by the attorney general after legally voting for an amendment that he himself supported is chilling."
Anti-gay Republicans piled on as well. House Speaker William Howell blustered:
"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.
"The attorney general has a constitutional and statutory obligation to enforce and defend the duly adopted laws and Constitution of Virginia. This is not an obligation that can be taken lightly. The attorney general's decision today demonstrates a great deal of disregard for that obligation, as well as the legislative and democratic processes by which those laws are adopted."
Delegate Robert Marshall added, "We appropriate money for people to defend the constitution, not to attack it. This is a complete dereliction of his duty."
National conservative voices joined the funeral chorus as well. Fox News complained that by refusing to defend marriage discrimination, Herring is "throwing out" the Tenth Amendment. The Family Research Council, a national anti-gay hate group, called Herring's move "lawlessness" and "an insult;" hate group spokesman Bryan Fischer smeared him as an "[advocate] for deviancy."
But in a press conference held today to explain his decision, Attorney General Herring stood firm. "...an unconstitutional law is infringing on the rights of Virginia families, [and] I have a duty and the authority to act to protect them and their rights."
Watch, after the jump.