VIRGINIA AG FIGHTS THE BAN: The attorney general of Virginia announced Thursday morning that his office will no longer defend the constitutionality of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Attorney General Mark Herring told reporters his legal analysis of the state’s constitutional ban has determined the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and discriminates against same-sex couples on the basis of sexual orientation. He said the state’s solicitor general will argue on the plaintiffs’ side next week when a federal district court judge in Norfolk hears a challenge to the ban brought by same-sex couples represented by a legal team that includes Ted Olson and David Boies. Full story.
VA PLAINTIFFS SEEK INJUNCTION: In another dramatic development, the Olson-Boies team on Tuesday submitted to the federal judge in Norfolk a decision by a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in SmithKline v. Abbott. The panel declared that heightened scrutiny is required for cases involving disparate treatment based on sexual orientation. The Olson-Boies team’s brief asked the judge to apply that reasoning in the summary judgment hearing “or, in the alternative,” grant a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Virginia’s ban against the two plaintiff couples in this case.
CONSOLIDATION-NO CONSOLIDATION: Federal district court Judge Michael McShane (an Obama appointee) on Tuesday granted a request by plaintiffs to consolidate two lawsuits challenging Oregon’s ban on same-sex couples marrying. But Judge Orlando Garcia (a Clinton appointee) of the federal court in San Antonio said no to a consolidation of cases there Wednesday. Texas Attorney General made the request with DeLeon v. Texas, hoping to consolidate it with at a similar lawsuit in Austin, Zahrn v. Perry. Garcia noted the DeLeon case involves at least one issue not implicated in the Austin case, and set February 12 for a hearing on the request to issue a preliminary injunction against the state ban in the DeLeon case.
OREGON SIGNATURE COUNT: The website for Oregon United for Marriage indicates that, as of this week, the group has collected 127,346 signatures to put a pro-marriage equality measure on this November’s ballot. State regulations require 116,284. But the latest records of the state elections office indicate the group has turned in only 36,457 as of January 13.
NEW POLL FINDS MAJORITY AGAINST BAN: Just as Virginia’s attorney general was announcing his determination that the state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying is unconstitutional, the national Freedom to Marry group released the results of its survey finding that 51 percent of registered voters in most states that ban same-sex marriage support the right to marry for such couples. In southern states, including Virginia, the poll found a split: 46 percent support and 46 percent oppose. The poll included 800 registered voters between December 2 and 8 in 34 states.
FLORIDA SUPPORT INCREASES: A Public Policy Polling report released Wednesday showed, for the first time ever, that more people in Florida support same-sex marriage than oppose it. The poll, conducted January 16-21 by the independent polling group, found 47 percent of voters support same-sex couples marrying, 44 percent oppose. The margin of error in the survey of 591 voters surveyed is plus or minus four points. Interestingly, more people approve of same-sex marriage than approve of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who opposes same-sex marriage. He and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist rated approval from only 43 percent of voters sampled. Current Republican Governor Rick Scott got 41 percent.