Metro Weekly

HRC endorses pro-LGBTQ Virginia AG Mark Herring for re-election

Herring has come under criticism from Republicans for his various pro-LGBTQ legal positions

Photo: Mark Herring. Credit: Glenn Fajota/American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Fresh on the heels of its endorsement of Democrat Ralph Northam to be Virginia’s next governor, the Human Rights Campaign is wading into commonwealth politics to endorse Attorney General Mark Herring’s bid for re-election.

The decision to endorse Herring should not come as a surprise, as his stances on LGBTQ rights have been much more publicized than Northam’s.

Herring refused to defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, because he believed that it was unconstitutional — a stance later upheld by federal courts.

“Attorney General Mark Herring has spent his career fighting to ensure all Virginians are treated with dignity and respect,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Whether it was standing up against a discriminatory ban on marriage equality or working to ensure LGBTQ students can go to school in an environment free from discrimination and harassment, Mark Herring is a proven champion of fairness and equality under the law.”

In addition to his historic position as the first attorney general to successfully argue against his own state’s marriage ban, Herring has proposed updating the definition of a hate crime to include those directed against members of the LGBTQ community.

He also worked with Gov. Terry McAuliffe to craft an executive order barring state contracts from going to companies that lack LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

Herring has also advocated on behalf of transgender students, most notably through issuing an opinion finding that local public schools can craft their own LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination, anti-bullying, and anti-harassment policies. He also signed onto an amicus brief supporting allowing transgender students to be treated according to their gender identity.

Most recently, he was one of 19 attorneys general to write a letter to Congress urging leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services Committee to block President Trump from trying to institute a sweeping ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military.

Herring faces off against John Adams, a Richmond-based lawyer who is best known for his opposition to marriage equality. The Washington Post reports that Adams has proposed that Virginia secede from the union over the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, unless Republicans are able to appoint four more justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas to the high court.

Adams was also a proponent of the Virginia General Assembly voting to impeach Herring over his refusal to defend the same-sex marriage ban, opposed the Obama administration’s past guidance urging schools to treat transgender children according to their gender identity, and criticized Herring for opposing Trump’s proposed ban on transgender service members by claiming the incumbent is pushing a “political agenda.” 

“I will never stop fighting for the rights of all Virginians to live, learn, and work free from intimidation, hate, or discrimination,” Herring said in a statement accepting HRC’s endorsement. “Our LGBT friends, neighbors, and family deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect that we all expect….As long as I am Virginia’s attorney general, I will make sure we keep moving forward and will fight any efforts to drag our Commonwealth backwards.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com