Reaction on Herring's Stance on Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Richmond, VA - Attorney General Mark Herring announced Thursday that he will not defend Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage.

Instead, Herring will support a Norfolk couple that hopes to have the ban struck down.

The announcement comes weeks after federal judges overturned gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Now just two weeks into office, Virginia's Attorney General is fighting to get the state on what he says is the 'right side of the law."

"I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and I intend to ensure that Virginia is on the right side of history and the right side of the law," Herring said.

Eight years ago, then state Senator Mark Herring voted against same-sex marriage, but now he says his views have changed.

"Even in that time I spoke against the need to fight other forms of discrimination against Virginians based on sexual orientation. But I was wrong to stop short of marriage equality," Herring said.

Herring says after independent review, he's concluded that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the 14th amendment.

ABC 13 reached out to Richard Mast, a litigation attorney with Liberty Counsel, who says he disagrees with Herring's statement and believes the ban is constitutional.

"It's a position that is taken without thinking through all of the ramifications. Marriage is the fundamental building block for society and it's always been between a man and a woman," Mast said.

For Desiree Smith, president of the Lynchburg College Gay-Straight Alliance, the Attorney General's change in position is a step forward in providing gay couples equal rights.

"When you restrict these rights you are not just restricting them from marriage but also from other decisions they can make," Smith said.

A hearing for the Norfolk couple in the Virginia marriage equality case is scheduled for January 30 and a second case is pending in federal court in Harrisonburg.