There is no question that Attorney General Mark Herring (D) has made the most of his few months in office.
From siding with Governor Terry McAuliffe's plan to roll back abortion clinic regulations, to declaring that the children of undocumented immigrants were eligible for instate tuition to siding against the commonwealth's constitutional ban on gay marriage, Herring has distinguished himself as an activist, liberal Attorney General.
There is no better example than gay marriage.
(Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield emerge from the Court of Appeals with their daughter Emily)
Herring has no specific role in this case, especially when he decided that the Commonwealth would not directly defend it's own constitutional amendment. His solictor general Stuart Raphael actually argued on behalf of the affirmation of the ruling in the lower court.
But Herring is making sure voters in Virginia, who are slowly becoming more comfortable with legal same-sex marriage, realize that despite casting a vote to pass the ammendment in 2006, he is now on what he deems the right side of history.
"The Commonwealth of Virginia enjoys a history as rich and complicated as any in our great nation. It is marked by moments of profound leadership on the national stage," Herring said Tuesday. "But it also includes moments where elected officials, including Attorneys General, fought to protect an unjust status quo."
Herring's critics argue that his position as Attorney General is one with no direct statutory control. It is a job designed to uphold existing Virginia laws, including the ones the person in the office may not agree with. The idea that courts could wipe away a law passed by a majority of voters is a central tenant of the argument made by attorneys hoping to keep the ban in place.
"Our hope is that the judges won't disenfranchise the 1.3 million Virginians who legally voted to amend our constitution,” said Victoria Cobb, the president of the conservative Family Foundation.
But Herring who has been roundly criticized by conservatives for his activism, in many of the same ways he and others were critical of his predecessor republican Ken Cuccinelli, seems emboldened by the fight.
"Having the right to fight for the rights of all Virginians is an awesome responsibility that I am honored to have," said the Attorney General. "It makes all the politically motivated criticisms, and the misrepresentation of my actions and the role of the Attorney General, pale in comparison."
He argues that the way he is conducting his office is a model for the future.
"I will continue to work every day as a modern Attorney General, running a legal operation that meets the needs of a Virginia that is helping to lead the nation," Herring said.
And as he stakes his claim on the political spectrum, Herring is taking the bold gamble that his move to the left is titling at the same time as the rest of Virginia. A tactical move designed to position him for a run for governor in 2017.
We will see if it pans out.
You can see Herring's comments after today's hearing below:
And here is our full story from today's hearing from NBC12.com:
RICHMOND (WWBT)- Virginia's ban on gay marriage was on trial today as the appeal to the repeal of the state's constitutional amendment was heard in federal court.
The oral arguments lasted about an hour and a decision may not come down for several weeks.
Attorneys from both sides warned not to take too much from the questions asked by the three judge panel as an indication as to how they may vote. Regardless- no matter how they rule- there will be much more debate to come.
On a hot day in Richmond, the temperatures of protestors outside the federal court of appeals were high.
But as loud as it was outside, the scene inside the courtroom, where our cameras were not allowed, was quiet as attorneys for both sides made their case.
"We are very happy with the arguments today," said David Austin Roberts Nimocks and Attorney representing Michelle McQuigg, the clerk of the court in Prince William County.
Opponents of same sex marriage worked on two fronts. First they worked to establish that marriage is a centuries old institution between only a man and a woman. Then they pointed out that it is up to each individual state to decide how it chooses to govern marriage.
"It is the idea that Virginians are in control of the policy of their state and not the courts," said Nimocks.
But gay marriage supporters argue that it does not matter how long a tradition has been in place if it denies someone a fundamental right. And that is a right provided by the federal constitution, regardless of what Virginia voters decide.
"Even where there are statutes enacted through the democratic process they must respect they must respect the individual constitutional rights of persons," said Chantale Fiebig an attorney representing the Bostic side of the case. "And at the end of the day that is what will compel a ruling in our favor."
And that may be what carries the day- does the federal constitution guarantee the right of anyone to get married to anyone they choose? If so it won't just be Virginia's ban on gay marriage that could get tossed out.
"There are some aspects to this case that I think would help answer a lot of legal questions," said Attorney General Mark Herring, who supports the ban on gay marriage being ruled unconstitutional.
...read and see the full story on NBC12.com