When Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, decided that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was something they didn’t like and they simply stopped enforcing or defending it, nothing happened to them.
When a long list of U.S. attorneys did the same thing, literally getting up at one table in a courtroom and sitting down with the opposing side in disputes over the definition of marriage, nothing happened to them either.
But if the National Organization for Marriage sees its efforts come to fruition, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring won’t be so lucky.
Herring recently announced that he was switching sides, and would be advocating for same-sex marriage in the state, prompting the NOM team to call for his impeachment.
“Attorney General Herring swore an oath to defend the constitution of the Commonwealth, yet now he is participating in a lawsuit against the very people he is sworn to represent, the citizens of Virginia who preserved marriage in their constitution. This malfeasance and neglect of duty is not only a disgrace, it’s an impeachable offense under the constitution,” said NOM President Brian Brown.
NOM spokesman Chris Plante told WND that the bottom line is not a fight over the definition of marriage or the acceptance or rejection of same-sex “marriage.”
“It means lawlessness. Every American ought to be afraid,” he said.
It means that an elected attorney general who swore an oath to defend his state’s constitution is forsaking that oath, forsaking those who elected him, and choosing “on a personal whim which laws to defend.”
Plante pondered what would happen if someone else decided to “ignore a drug law, or a firearms law” and the “outrage that would spread across society.”
“Folks in Virginia deserve better,” he said. “Herring ought to be impeached for dereliction of duty.”
The state is one of those many where voters wrote into their state constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman, he said.
The actual likelihood of an impeachment or other punitive action will depend on the state legislature, he said. But given that the Senate is controlled by the Democrats, the calls to action may be more a statement of position than an actual plan for action.
But he said voters “ought to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ Laws are to be obeyed.”
The fight already has circled the globe, with a United Kingdom headline stating “US: Attorney general slammed over push for gay marriage.”
“Last week, the attorney general Mark Herring said he would be filing a brief in support of the gay couples, saying that he ‘cannot and will not defend laws that violate Virginians’ rights,’” the report said.
NOM noted the problem was that Herring was “advocating directly for the side opposed to the interests of his clients, the people of Virginia.”
The marriage advocates explained it is Section 17 of the Virginia constitution that allows the impeachment of an attorney general for “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty or other high crime or misdemeanor.”
Professor John Eastman, chairman of NOM’s board of directors and a highly regarded constitutional law expert, said Herring’s decision simply is lawless.
“The attorney general’s decision to advocate against the state’s marriage law is an egregious violation of his duty. Here you don’t merely have the attorney general abandoning the defense of the law and remaining neutral – a decision which itself would be based on very dubious grounds. No, this goes further: Herring is staying involved in the case, and advocating directly for the side opposed to the interests of his clients, the people of Virginia. Any other lawyer pulling that kind of nonsense would be disbarred.”
Brown noted that Herring’s actions are reminiscent of what happened in California, where the state attorney general refused to defend Proposition 8 and it was struck down by a homosexual trial judge in San Francisco.
The U.S. Supreme Court then said the backers of Prop 8 did not have standing to appeal the decision of the district court judge. Brown praised former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for helping ensure that other governmental defendants would be able to represent the interests of the Commonwealth in federal court.
“Thanks to the foresight of Ken Cuccinelli, there is a governmental entity who is defending the law now that the attorney general has abandoned his constitutional responsibility. Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michele McQuigg is in a position to defend the law and appeal a decision if need be.”
Virginia Delegate Todd Gilbert called Herring’s actions “reckless overreach.”
“The attorney general does not have the authority to unilaterally make that decision for the people. And he unequivocally should not be using taxpayer resources to fight against a law that the voters adopted by an overwhelming majority,” he said.
WND reported earlier on the earlier cases, including when the Pacific Justice Institute wanted to hold federal prosecutors accountable for abandoning their clients, the U.S. taxpayers, in challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The complaints, signed by more than 900 people, allege the attorneys litigating cases regarding the constitutionality of DOMA “intentionally took action to sabotage the case and prejudice the federal defendants that they were charged with defending.”
But bar associations simply said they saw nothing wrong with the decision to abandon clients, and there was no punishment.