Many Virginians are perplexed by Attorney General Mark Herring’s decision to join the plaintiffs in a same-sex marriage suit brought against the state.
The great concern with AG Herring’s actions is his blatant disregard for the voters of Virginia, not to mention his oath of office. In 2006 Virginians voted 57 % to pass the amendment to the state’s constitution defining marriage as a heterosexual institution. Those Virginians who do not share Mr. Herring’s ‘progressive’ sentiments feel a deep-rooted sense of betrayal by one of the highest officeholders in the Commonwealth.
Herring and the cheerleaders in his party are using the same strategy that officials in California used to overthrow the will of the voters in their state. By failing to defend their state’s interest, there was no one with standing to plead California’s case before the Supreme Court of the United States when a similar challenge was lodged against that state’s marriage amendment (Proposition 8). Through willful neglect of their sworn constitutional duties, they pre-determined the outcome of that case against the voice of the people and the established constitution of the state. Such self-willed and lawless behavior does not bode well for the future – anyone’s future.
Even California’s Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsome, expressed concern over the pathway to this decision. As mayor of San Francisco he performed many then-illegal same-sex weddings. According to the LA Times, after the Supreme Court’s decision to overthrow California’s Proposition 8, he expressed concern that there were “some legitimate questions on all sides about the power of elected officials to in essence trump and deny the will of the voters." No kidding!
These fears are well-founded. We are witnessing more than a change in the millennia-old institution of marriage. This kind of careless pursuit by proponents of same-sex marriage opens a descent into lawlessness. Most disturbingly, it is a lawlessness rooted in the exercise of civil authority. In other words, it proceeds from the top. As the prophet said, “The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint” (Isaiah 1:5), it is “an error proceeding from the ruler” (Ecclesiastes 10:5). This kind of action actually goes by another name – tyranny.
Such actions will not strengthen our institutions or society. When elected officials betray the will of the people in such a flagrant manner, the already waning confidence in the government and its courts only erodes further. The good faith underlying the social compact dies. Such presumptuous actions only open the wounds of a deeply divided society even further, eventually rendering them incurable.
Herring’s supporters in his party claim that he is ‘on the right side of history.’ Really? Is government by a small clique of lawyers, politicians, and judges really the right side of history? Surely, the average citizen recognizes this for what it is -- an abuse of power. Is there now any constitutional issue that elected officials may not renege on their vows to uphold? We are uniquely, according to John Adams, “A government of laws and not a government of men.” The ‘side of history’ that Attorney General Herring has chosen for himself is a regression to the pre-revolutionary-era. This action is not only not 21st century – it fails to measure up to the standards of the 18th. He has substituted his own private judgment and that of an oligarchy of well-placed people for the vox populi. He should not be trusted with the awesome power and responsibility of office. He has violated his oath of office. He should resign.
Steve Paulus is the pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Staunton