Virginia AG: gay marriage ban unconstitutional

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT/AP) - Attorney General Mark Herring said Thursday Virginia's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and he will no longer defend it in federal lawsuits. Instead, the state will side with the same-sex couples who are fighting the law.

Herring filed his brief Thursday morning with the federal court in Norfolk, where one of the lawsuits is being heard.

Federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma recently struck down gay marriage bans.

Virginia voters approved the same-sex marriage ban 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006. However, a Quinnipiac University poll in July found 50 percent of registered Virginia voters support same-sex marriage, while 43 percent oppose it. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The legal costs in the Norfolk case are being paid for by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which was behind the effort to overturn California's gay marriage ban.

A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30 before a judge who was nominated by President Barack Obama.

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