August 5, 2014 at 5:39 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Mark Herring to petition Supreme Court to hear Va. marriage case

Mark Herring, Virginia, Democratic Party, Attorney General, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Tuesday announced he will petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case that challenges the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban.

Herring’s office said in a press release that on Friday he will formally ask the justices to hear the case and “definitely settle the constitutional issues for the commonwealth and the rest of the country.”

“Throughout this case, I have fought for the fundamental rights of Virginians and the quickest possible resolution,” said Herring. “I believe the district and appeals courts ruled correctly in striking down Virginia’s discriminatory marriage ban, but it has long been clear that the Supreme Court will likely have the final word. I want that decision to come as soon as possible and I want the voices of Virginians to be heard. This case has moved forward at an incredibly swift pace, and I look forward to a final resolution that affirms the fundamental right of all Virginians to marry.”

Herring made his announcement four days after Prince William County Clerk Michèle McQuigg’s lawyers signaled she plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond on July 28 upheld U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen’s ruling that found Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman unconstitutional.

Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is representing Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield in the case, welcomed Herring’s announcement.

“Our case’s plaintiffs — Tim and Tony and Carol and Mary — along with millions of Americans like them, deserve the freedom to marry,” said Umhoefer. “When and if the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say in this matter, we believe it will side with fairness, dignity and equality under the law.”

More than two dozen federal and state courts have ruled in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes earlier on Tuesday petitioned the justices to overturn rulings from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby that struck down his state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Wednesday will hear oral arguments in five cases that challenge same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot late last month filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that seeks to overturn a federal judge’s ruling in February that found his state’s gay nuptials ban unconstitutional.

Herring announced shortly after taking office in January that he would not defend Virginia’s marriage amendment that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, who are representing two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley in a case against Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban that has become a class action, oppose McQuigg’s motion.

“In the last year, every federal court to consider the issue has found that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Their rights should not be delayed any longer.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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