Virginia Governor rejects call to appoint special prosecutor to defend same-sex marriage ban
RICHMOND -- Virginia's Governor on Monday responded to a letter from dozens of Republican lawmakers asking him to appoint a special prosecutor to defend the state's same sex marriage ban.
Governor Terry McAuliffe declined the request telling the letter's principal author, Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), that the state's ban was already receiving a "vigorous defense."
The letter comes on the heels of the decision last week by Attorney General Mark R. Herring to decline to defend the constitutional ban citing his belief that the law was unconstitutional.
A spokesman for McAuliffe, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage told the Washington Post that the governor supports Herring’s move.
In his letter to Marshall, McAuliffe noted that other officials outside of the attorney general’s office are fighting the ban.
“I share your view that the effective administration of our legal system requires zealous advocacy on all matters before the courts. 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, McAuliffe wrote. “Accordingly, I respectfully decline to appoint special counsel in this matter.”
The Attorney General's actions have angered the General Assembly's top Republicans who passed a measure out of committee Monday that would give individual lawmakers the legal status to intervene in ongoing legal challenges in the circumstances when the governor and attorney general decline to defend a Virginia law. That measure now goes to the full assembly for its consideration and should it pass, then it heads onto the Senate.
The Post also reported that Marshall said he plans to continue to hold Herring to account for his first major decision as 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.