October 31, 2017 at 2:20 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Mark Herring talks Trump aides indictments, LGBT rights
Mark Herring, gay news, Washington Blade, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, Obergefell v. Hodges, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is running against Republican John Adams. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Monday said the charges filed against President Trump’s former campaign manager and an associate as “very serious.”

“The indictments are very serious and indicate the investigation has gotten to a new level,” Herring told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview.

Herring spoke with the Blade a few hours after special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed indictments against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates for alleged tax evasion and money laundering.

The charges are not directly related to Trump’s presidential campaign or Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

George Papadopoulos, who advised the Trump campaign on foreign policy, on Oct. 5 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians who claimed they had information about Hillary Clinton. The plea agreement — in which he agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation — was unsealed on Monday.

“Americans deserve to know what happened here with Russian involvement in the election,” Herring told the Blade, noting he called for a special council to investigate the allegations of Russian interference in the election because he did not think U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions could conduct an impartial investigation. “We’ll need to see where it leads.”

Same-sex marriage is ‘right thing’ for Virginians

Herring — a Democratic former state senator from Loudoun County — spoke with the Blade eight days before he will face off against Republican John Adams.

Herring announced shortly after he took office in 2014 that he would no longer defend Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. He later officiated the Richmond ceremony during which Carol Schall and Mary Townley — one of the plaintiff couples who challenged the state’s same-sex marriage ban in federal court — renewed their California wedding vows after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Herring in 2015 said Virginia law gives local school boards the authority to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies.

Herring and attorneys general from 14 other states and D.C. last month filed a federal lawsuit against Trump over his decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits. Herring and 19 other attorneys general on Monday filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of a gay couple who argues they have the right under Colorado’s nondiscrimination law to purchase a wedding cake from a Christian baker in spite of his religious beliefs.

“Anti-discrimination laws in the commercial marketplace ensure equal access to goods and services and protections against the harms of discrimination,” Herring told the Blade. “Those are protections for everyone.”

Carol Schall, Mary Townley, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, Virginia, Mark Herring

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, right, on Oct. 6, 2014, presided over the Richmond, Va., ceremony during which Carol Schall, first from left, and Mary Townley renewed their vows. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Virginia Attorney General)

Adams has repeatedly attacked Herring over his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples in Virginia.

The Republican in 2016 told members of the Virginia Beach Tea Party the state House of Delegates should have impeached Herring after announcing he would no longer defend Virginia’s marriage amendment. An Adams campaign ad that features Schall and Townley and their daughter at a press conference with Herring is currently airing on D.C. television stations.

Herring told the Blade that Adams “doesn’t accept as valid” the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell case that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country.

“It goes beyond his personal belief that same-sex couples should be marry,” said Herring.

“Marriage equality is the right thing for Virginians and their families,” he added.

Herring also told the Blade that Danica Roem, who is challenging state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), is a “great candidate” who will be “a fantastic member of the Virginia House of Delegates.”

Roem, a former journalist, would become the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the country if she were to beat the Prince William County Republican. Marshall, who is among the most outspoken opponents of LGBT rights in the General Assembly, has repeatedly attacked Roem over her gender identity throughout the campaign.

“Del. Marshall is such a polarizing representative that he has been ineffective in addressing the nuts and bolts issues that are important to people in the district,” Herring told the Blade.

The Blade on Monday contacted Adams’ campaign for an interview. It has yet to respond to the request.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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