Jones supports marriage amendment

Published 10:03 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

Suffolk’s Chris Jones has signed a letter with 52 other delegates asking Gov. Terry McAuliffe to rein in Attorney General Mark Herring’s support of a case against Virginia’s Marriage Amendment.

The House Republicans have taken issue, requesting McAuliffe appoint special counsel to defend it, after Herring joined a lawsuit that would declare unconstitutional the amendment that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

Ratified by 57 percent of voters in 2006, the amendment to Virginia’s constitution is also known as the Marshall-Newman Amendment, in part after Bob Marshall, the apparent author of the letter to McAuliffe and who also sponsored the amendment.

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Responding to the Jan. 24 letter, McAuliffe wrote that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is being “vigorously and appropriately defended” by the respective clerks of court for Norfolk and Prince William County.

Herring says he would not defend the amendment and would seek to have it declared unconstitutional, as he believes it violates the U.S. Constitution.

“I swore an oath to both the United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution. After thorough legal review, I have now concluded that Virginia’s ban on marriage between same sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on two grounds: marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender,” he said in a news release.

Virginia had before “argued on the wrong side of some of our nation’s landmark cases,” Herring added, citing school desegregation, interracial marriage and the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Virginia could not fund single-gender education at Virginia Military Institute without also providing comparable education for females.

“It’s time for the Commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law,” Herring said.

A second letter from Republican delegates urged McAuliffe to order Herring to “stand down, withdraw from the case and take his brief attacking our constitution with him.”

Failure to do so would make McAuliffe “a silent cheerleader to the unprecedented and unauthorized actions of the attorney general.”

In a suit filed in federal court in Norfolk in July, and a second case pending in Harrisonburg, Janet Rainey, the state registrar of vital records, is being sued for implementing Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.