Local Commentary

Editorial: Virginia Readies For Equality

Barely having time to adjust the cushion on his Virginia attorney general’s chair, and after a recount confirmed his victory as Virginia’s new attorney general by just over 100 votes statewide, Mark Herring released a 23-page brief last week stating that he will not defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, but instead will actively side with the plaintiffs in a constitutional challenge case currently before the Eastern District federal court to strike down the ban.

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of Norfolk suggested that based on Herring’s finding, additional oral arguments in a case brought by a Norfolk same-sex couple might not be required, because the attorney general’s arguments that Virginia’s ban violates the 14th amendment are “compelling” and said she is prepared to rule based on the written briefs submitted to date.

But the case (Bostic v. Rainey) will resume, delayed by the weather until next week, the judge announced Monday. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to her post in 2011 upon the recommendation of U.S. Senators from Virginia Mark Warner and Jim Webb. Herring announced yesterday that he will personally attend the hearing. The judge said she will hear the case and make her decision at some undetermined time in the future.

So, the unexpected reality is that Virginia is on the verge of joining the growing number of other states that have embraced same-sex marriage and the full benefits of equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens. It looked for a time last week that the federal judge might have ruled already by now.

Virginia’s same-sex couples had better get ready! Make sure the rings fit, and the relationship is really what you want to sanctify and make legal by marriage!

It was a pleasant surprise to see how quickly Attorney General Herring acted on this, just as new Governor Terry McAuliffe’s first order of business once sworn in on that rainy Saturday a couple weeks ago was to sign an executive order banning discrimination in state government of LGBT persons.

“Virginia will not be subjected to the ignominy of massive resistance to equality once again,” said State Del. Scott Surovell when Herring’s finding was made public last week. Yes, unlike the commonwealth’s unsavory history of opposition to racial integration, including to inter-racial marriage, the fact that it may quickly join the ranks of those states affirming “equal justice under the law” to the one remaining class of U.S. citizens denied it will be warmly and eagerly welcomed.

With the newly transformed Richmond government – three Republican top officials replaced by three Democratic ones, and Democratic control of the State Senate – there are more big changes in store, and we say, “Go for it!”

Progressive values are not only morally right, but good for business in a world that increasingly embraces equality and diversity.