February 14

Attorneys general switching sides on gay marriage

They say that the legal case against gay marriage is crumbling and that it would be improper for them to argue positions that are clearly unconstitutional.

By Brock Vergakis And Nicholas Riccardi
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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From left, Robert Roman and Claus Ihlemann of Virginia Beach celebrate Thursday’s ruling by federal Judge Arenda Wright Allen that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional during a news conference Friday in Norfolk, Va.

The Associated Press

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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, center, flanked by Solicitor General Stuart Raphael, left, and Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Hudson, right, speaks Friday during a news conference in which he applauded the overnight decision by a federal judge to strike down Virginia’s ban on gay marriage.

The Associated Press

The newly elected Herring was in office less than two weeks when he announced last month that he would ask the court to overturn the state’s 2003 voter-approved ban. Herring had supported it a decade ago but said he had since concluded it was unconstitutional.

Republicans were furious.

“I’m a lawyer,” said state Delegate Todd Gilbert. “I take positions I may find personally distasteful when they may benefit a client because that’s my role as an attorney.”

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has taken a similar stand. While he supports same-sex unions, he said in a statement: “When legal arguments exist to defend a law, it is the duty of the Office of the Attorney General under North Carolina law to make those arguments in court regardless of whether I agree with the law.”

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said in an interview this week that a recent federal appeals court ruling that gays could not be excluded from juries because of their sexual orientation had “gutted” the argument the state was using to ban gay marriage.

“You have to look at the law, look at the legal merits and see if you have a good-faith defense,” she said, adding that her personal views on gay marriage are irrelevant.

Observers say the next attorney general in the hot spot may be Oregon’s Ellen Rosenblum. The Democrat signed on to briefs last year before the Supreme Court arguing it was unconstitutional to deny gays the right to marry. A federal lawsuit challenging Oregon’s ban is moving ahead. A spokesman did not return a call for comment.

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