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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 05
Virginia marriage hearing snowed out
Section One
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Virginia marriage hearing snowed out

By Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The initial hearing in a lawsuit challenging Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage has been postponed. It had been scheduled for January 30.

According to the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which joined the lawsuit in September, a severe snow storm blanketing the East Coast forced the federal district court to close.

'While this is a temporary delay, marriage equality will once again have its day in court very soon,' AFER said in a statement.

Plaintiffs in the case include Timothy Bostic and Tony London, who have been together nearly 25 years, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who are raising a 15-year-old daughter and whose California marriage is not recognized by Virginia.

Virginia's newly elected Attorney General, Mark Herring, made headlines when he announced on January 23 that he would not defend the state law banning same-sex marriage because he found that it violated the US Constitution. Herring then filed a motion in the case asking the court for summary judgment on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe rejected a demand by Republican legislators to appoint a special prosecutor to take Herring's place before the federal court. In a letter to Delegate Robert Marshall, the organizer of the Republican petition to the governor, McAuliffe said that other state officials were representing Virginia's government.

'I share your view that the effective administration of our legal system requires zealous advocacy on all matters before the courts,' McAuliffe wrote 'In the present case, Virginia's same-sex marriage ban is being vigorously and appropriately defended by the Clerk of Court for the City of Norfolk and the Clerk of Court for Prince William County,' as well as other parties.

'Accordingly, I respectfully decline to appoint special counsel in this matter.' McAuliffe has been a long time supporter of Marriage equality, and a spokesperson for his office said the Governor agrees with Herring that state law is unconstitutional.

What Republican legislators will do now remains unclear. A House committee divided mainly along partisan lines passed a measure that would give each member of the state legislature the right to 'intervene' in a case when the Governor and Attorney General decline to defend Virginia law.

Supporters of that bill said they rushed it through the Courts of Justice Committee so they would have time to join legal proceedings in the ongoing federal marriage case.

Republicans control Virginia's House of Representatives, but Democrats are in control of the Senate, so the future of the measure is unclear.

Republicans also went after the Attorney General. Marshall said he is developing a legal ethics complaint against Herring on the premise that the Attorney General has failed to properly represent his clients - the people of Virginia, the majority of whom voted for the marriage ban.

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