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Judge poised to rule on Va. same-sex marriage ban

Herring will not defend anti-gay amendment

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Mark Herring, gay news, Washington Blade
Mark Herring, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Jan. 23 announced he will not defend the state’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.(Photo courtesy of Herring for Attorney General)

A federal judge appears ready to rule on the constitutionality of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban in the wake of Attorney General Mark Herring’s announcement that he will not defend it.

Judge Arenda L. Wright of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk on Jan. 23 asked the parties in the lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples to file status reports on whether oral arguments that are scheduled to take place on Thursday “remains warranted.” She also told the litigants to tell the court whether it should “instead rule promptly on the briefs without a hearing.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs — Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond — filed their response to Wright’s order on Jan. 24. The judge ordered attorneys representing the defendant — Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer — to respond to Herring’s position that the state constitutional amendment that defines marriage in Virginia as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional by noon on Monday.

“The attorney general’s change in position should not delay this court’s resolution of plaintiff’s motions for a preliminary injunction and summary judgment,” wrote Bostic and London’s lawyers in the status report they submitted to Wright. “If anything, the attorney general’s change in position makes clearer the appropriateness of immediate relief.”

Herring’s decision not to defend the marriage amendment sparked immediate outrage among some Virginia Republicans and social conservatives.

“The attorney general’s decision to refuse to enforce a duly-adopted provision of the Virginia Constitution is frightening,” said state Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) on Sunday during the Republican Party of Virginia’s weekly address.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, echoed Gilbert in a statement her organization released after Herring’s Jan. 23 announcement.

State Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) equated the attorney general’s announcement during a Jan. 24 interview with Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni that aired on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU to a “Pearl Harbor attack on the people of Virginia.” Republican Party of Virginia Chair Pat Mullins is among those who have suggested that Herring should resign.

A Virginia House of Delegates committee on Jan. 24 approved a bill that Gilbert and Marshall introduced earlier this month that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so. The two Republicans are among the 32 lawmakers who urged Gov. Terry McAuliffe on the same day to defend the state’s marriage amendment that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin.

“Attorney General Herring apparently is satisfied that the people of Virginia shall not be represented in court to defend the 2006 voter approved one-man, one-woman marriage amendment,” wrote the legislators in the letter of which the Washington Post obtained a copy.

McAuliffe, who took office slightly more than two weeks ago, supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“There are people who are going to attack me and try to say ‘well it’s about the duty of the attorney general [to defend the marriage ban,]” Herring told the Washington Blade during a Jan. 23 interview. “In fact what they’re really upset about is that they disagree with marriage equality. And that’s their right, but it’s not the law.”

Neighboring Maryland is among the 17 states and D.C. that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians in Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and other states have filed lawsuits seeking the ability to tie the knot in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision last June that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

The ACLU, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia last August filed a class action federal lawsuit on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley — including one who tied the knot in D.C. in 2011 — who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth. The first hearing in the case is expected to take place in the coming months.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Rj Carter

    January 26, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    this is my new attorney general!!! :)

  2. Anonymous

    January 27, 2014 at 3:06 am

    I wish he were my attorney general :/

  3. Bobby Oliver

    January 27, 2014 at 3:26 am

    The US Constitution trumps the Virginia Constitution. It's the US Federal Court that will decide. It's called checks and balances against the executive and legislative.

  4. Jonathan Erickson

    January 27, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    How many of the states Herring refers to as having same sex marriage approved it at the ballot box. 300,000 more Virginians voted for the ban then those who voted for Herring. Change it through a vote if you will not with political/legal tricks.

  5. Michael David Barber Moghul

    January 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    The US Constitution protects minorities from majority tyranny. It doesn't matter how many people vote for something if that "something" alienates individuals from their Constitutional rights.

  6. Andrew Riveral IV

    January 27, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Way to go Mr. Atorney General.

  7. Joel Biermann

    January 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Constitutional rights are never to be subjected to a vote. The Supreme Court has said this multiple times.

  8. Katie Denny Neville

    January 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    And just suppose, for a moment, that the citizens of the Commonwealth has been allowed to vote in 1954 on school desegregation. Equal rights are not voting matters. They are guaranteed by the Constitution of the US.

  9. Jonathan Erickson

    January 27, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Katie Denny Neville I must of missed the part that says gays have a right to marry please show me the way to that amendment. You are confusing rights with discrimination?

  10. Brian Katcher

    January 28, 2014 at 3:22 am

    Will Virginia be the 18th equality state?

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Comings & Goings

Umana named associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

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Wolfgang Umana (Photo courtesy of Umana)

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

Congratulations to Wolfgang Umana on being named an associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN). He has been with them for more than five years and is currently its D.C. studio’s office manager. 

“I am honored to become GGN’s newest Associate,” Umana said.I have the glorious privilege of supporting GGN’s continuing dedication to progress, inclusion, social justice, sustainability, and beautification of the world we live in.”

Umana also works with NBR Computer Consulting as an LLC Computer Technician consultant. He has experience in social media, communications, outreach, and technical services, and provides a dynamic approach to the fast-changing world of technology. NBR Computer Consulting, LLC is a gay-owned business. 

Umana has also served as D.C. Army National Guard Director of Environmental Affairs and with EMS Consultation Services. 

He has his bachelor’s in Environmental Science & Public Policy, Human and Ecosystem Response to Climate Change, from George Mason University. 

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Capital Pride bids for D.C. to host World Pride 2025

International event draws thousands of visitors

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Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. D.C. organizers hope to host the event in 2025. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, announced on Sept. 21 that it has submitted a bid to host 2025 World Pride, the international Pride event that draws thousands of participants from throughout the world to the host city.

The announcement by Capital Pride says its bid to host the event in D.C. notes that the event, among other things, would commemorate the 50th anniversary of D.C.’s first LGBTQ Pride event in 1975, which began as a block party near Dupont Circle.

World Pride is licensed and administered by the international LGBTQ organization InterPride. The World Pride events themselves, which usually take place every other year, are organized by InterPride’s member organizations such as Capital Pride Alliance.

The Capital Pride announcement notes that World Pride “promotes visibility and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) issues on a global level.” The announcement adds, “World Pride events include parades, marches, festivals and other cultural activities often enjoyed at Pride celebrations, along with other components such as a human rights conference and large-scale opening and closing ceremonies.”

The InterPride website says the deadline for submitting a bid for the 2025 World Pride has passed. It says D.C.’s Capital Pride and Kaohsiung Pride, located in the large Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung, are the only two remaining cities in competition for hosting the 2025 World Pride.

Ryan Bos, Capital Pride’s executive director, said InterPride was expected to make its decision on which of the two cities to select sometime in November of this year.

“A recent study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton revealed that the annual Capital Pride Celebrations, during normal years, result in approximately $371 million in positive economic impacts to the region, a number that may be doubled if the organization is awarded the prestigious event,” the Capital Pride statement says.

The 2021 World Pride took place earlier this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2019 World Pride was held in New York City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots, which many activists consider the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

InterPride says the 2023 World Pride will take place in Sydney, Australia.

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Va. county supervisors back resolution against ‘required’ pronoun questions

Unanimous vote in Stafford County allows school defunding

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What's Your Pronoun? review, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image courtesy of Liveright Publishing)

The Stafford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that gives it the authority to deny funds to schools that require students to give their pronouns and teach the 1619 Project and critical race theory.

The resolution denounces “the teaching of the 1619 Project and critical race theory (CRT) and related principles in Stafford County Public Schools,” and states the board does not support Stafford County Public School students “being required to identify their chosen pronouns.”

The approved document had been updated to change “requested” to give pronouns to “required.”

Republican Supervisor Gary Snellings told the board he brought the resolution forward, which passed by a 6-0 vote margin, in response to communication from parents. One supervisor was not present.

Snellings called critical race theory “racism.” He also called the New York Times’ 1619 Project published on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony a “theory.”

Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia public schools, but a state law passed in 2020 requires local school boards to adopt policies that are more inclusive for transgender and non-binary students that follow, or exceed, guidelines from the state’s Department of Education.

Snellings said the problem with preferred pronouns was in requiring students to give them. He said that was not in the governing Virginia law.

“This (resolution) does not eliminate anything. It just follows state law,” Snellings said.

A Virginia court in July dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Department of Education’s guidelines for trans and non-binary students. Equality Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia were parties to the amicus brief in support of the protections.

“We are deeply disappointed that these adults made such a hateful decision for kids in the community,” tweeted the ACLU of Virginia in response to the board’s vote.

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