Herring made the announcement a year to the day after gays and lesbians received marriage rights in Virginia.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2014, announced it would not hear a case that challenged the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment banning nuptials for same-sex couples. The decision not to accept the lawsuit also prompted Virginia to recognize same-sex marriages that had been legally performed in other jurisdictions.
“That day, the constitutional right of Virginians to marry whomever they love was secured and loving couples and families across the commonwealth were able to unite under the law for the very first time,” said Herring in a statement. “It affirmed that Virginia is open and welcoming to all and that discrimination would not be tolerated, and no longer sanctioned by the commonwealth. Those are true Virginia values.”
Herring also said Virginia over the last year has issued 70 birth certificates to same-sex couples.
“That day was certainly groundbreaking, but the historic nature could not compare to the faces of people who could finally marry the one they loved, the mothers and fathers who would finally be named on their baby’s birth certificate, and the fact that love and our constitution prevailed,” said Herring.
Herring on Oct. 6, 2014, presided over the Richmond ceremony during which Carol Schall and Mary Townley — two of the plaintiffs in the case the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear — renewed their wedding vows.
“On Oct. 6, 2014 we won the simple and profound right to call each other family, to call the loves of our life ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ and to hear our children legally call us ‘mom’ or ‘dad,’” said Schall in the press release that Herring’s office released. “Same gender families across Virginia now enjoy the legal ties that only marriage can bring.”
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, on Tuesday also acknowledged the anniversary of marriage rights for same-sex couples in the commonwealth.
“The legal argument was clear — denying marriage to couples only because of their genders is precisely the type of discrimination not allowed by the 14th Amendment,” said Parrish in an email to his group’s supporters.
Virginia Republicans, the Family Foundation of Virginia and other groups opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples blasted Herring’s decision not to defend the commonwealth’s gay nuptials ban that voters approved in 2006. A bill that would have allowed state lawmakers to defend the prohibition was killed earlier this year.
Herring — who announced last month that he will seek re-election — on Tuesday noted Virginia’s anti-discrimination laws do not include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“All Virginians deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and equality,” he said. “We will continue to fight against discrimination in the workplace, housing and wherever we find it.”