Gay marriage moved closer to gaining its first foothold in the South when Virginia’s attorney general said Thursday the state’s ban on same-sex matrimony is unconstitutional and he will join the fight to get it struck down.
“It’s time for the commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law” newly elected Democrat Mark Herring said in a state that fiercely resisted school integration and interracial marriage in the ’50s and ’60s.
Republicans accused Herring of shirking his duty to defend the state’s laws after less than two weeks on the job, while gay rights activists exulted over the latest in a string of victories — this one in a conservative and usually hostile region of the country.
“It’s a nice day to be an American from Virginia” Tom Shuttleworth, one of the lawyers challenging the ban, said in an email.
The move reflects the rise of a new Democratic leadership in Virginia and illustrates how rapidly the political and legal landscape on gay marriage in the U.S. is shifting.