Local same-sex couple talks about Herring announcement

VA Attorney General Mark Herring
VA Attorney General Mark Herring

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is declaring war on Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. 10 On Your Side talked to a local same-sex couple about Herring’s remarks on Thursday.

“I have concluded that Virginia’s ban on marriage between same-sex couples violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment of The United States Constitution. As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend a law that violates Virginians fundamental and constitutional rights,” said Herring in an announcement Thursday.

Herring said he will join a lawsuit against Virginia’s law — a law that was put into effect when voters approved the gay marriage ban in 2006. But local voters Tina and Suzie Finnerty say they were overjoyed at Herring’s commitment to fighting the law.

When she heard about it, Tina called Suzie, who was still asleep, right away: “I said, ‘I realize I’m waking you up, but you have to be awake to hear what I’m saying. The Virginia Attorney General is not going to defend the federal cases on the marriage ban.’ I was like, ‘Do you hear what I’m saying?’

“I turned the news on and went on Facebook right away,” said Suzie Finnerty. “It’s exciting.”

The couple has been together for 13 years, but were legally married in  New York last year. They say their nuptials were bittersweet.

“It was incredible,” said Suzie Finnerty. “It was surreal, very amazing and wonderful.”

The sweet part of their marriage is that they were able to join in matrimony legally in the state of New York. But the bitter part came quick — when the couple crossed over the Virginia state line and their marriage was no longer recognized.

“It’s very disheartening because it does make you feel like you are viewed as lesser, and that’s always difficult to deal with.”

When the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in the summer, same-sex couples across the nation celebrated. The decision meant couples like the Finnertys would be recognized federally, but in states like Virginia, where a same-sex marriage ban is still in place, it left more obstacles.

“For me, it’s something as simple as being able to legally change my name,” Tina said. “I can’t do that in the Commonwealth without going to court. There is the frustration with the idea that, yes, we have a marriage license, but it doesn’t really mean anything.”

The Finnertys are hopeful the Attorney General’s stand on the matter will change that.

“Just legitimizing it and being able to say we have this piece of paper is important to us,” Suzie said.

Local advocacy group Hampton Roads Pride told 10 On Your Side, “The decision empowers and encourages other Virginians who seek equality in our state and communities.”

The Virginia’s Catholic Bishops disagrees with Herring’s position, releasing the following statement:

We call on the Attorney General to do the job he was elected to perform, which is to defend the state law he agrees with, as well as those state laws with which he personally disagrees. We will continue to defend marriage between a man and a woman, an institution whose original design predates all governments and religions.

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