A Majority of One

Andrew Jackson famously never said, “One man with courage makes a majority.” Yesterday, the new Attorney General of Virginia, Mark Herring, announced that he has decided he is no longer bound to defend the Virginia Constitution which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. This is not courage at all, but pure hubris. After only just being declared the winner in a recount by the slimmest of margins earlier this month, Mark Herring has created a new civil right ex nihilo without any input from the legislature or existing case law. In other words, he is the self-declared majority of one–a dictator.

The Supreme Court remains silent on the question at issue and there is no basis in the laws of Virginia for Herring’s autocratic decision. The decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry declined to address the question of same-sex marriage at all and United States v. Windsor was decided based on the principle of federalism. In the latter, Justice Kennedy quoted the opinion of the First Circuit Court of Appeals saying that the Defense of Marriage Act was designed “to put a thumb on the scales and influence a state’s decision as to how to shape its own marriage laws.” In his arrogance, Mark Herring is not only putting his thumb on the scales of justice, but also in the eyes of the citizens who elected him.

The Seal of Virginia

The Seal of Virginia

Ironically, the motto of my beloved native Virginia is, “Sic semper tyrannis,” which means, “Thus always to tyrants.” The “thus” refers to the ignominious demise of Julius Caesar at the hands of the Roman Senate. Patrick Henry once famously gave a speech echoing these sentiments, “Tarquin and Caesar had each his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third [here he was interrupted by cries of ‘Treason!’] and George the Third may profit by their example! If this be treason, make the most of it.”

The same may be said of Mark Herring. Fortunately, in this gentler age of the world, he needn’t fear being stabbed to death by the members of the General Assembly for his usurpation of their authority. However, we can hope that they do prevail in the courts and that Herring is obliged to do his job and uphold the laws of his state.

Both the motto and the Constitution of Virginia were originally drafted during the Revolutionary War, making the latter the oldest in the nation and the model for the founders when they drafted the U.S. Constitution several years later. The consent of the governed is the foundational principle on which our entire structure of government is premised and is the essential safeguard of our liberty. Furthermore, the Constitution of Virginia makes this explicit in Article I, Section 7: “That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.”

It defies all reason to claim that the protecting the imagined right to same-sex marriage requires elected officials to disregard the constitutional principle which protects all rights. If advocates for same-sex marriage are so assured of the justice of their cause, they should have no hesitation about bringing this matter before the people. Amending the Constitution of Virginia only requires a simple majority, so this is far easier than amending the U.S. Constitution.

Regardless of whether you agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church and the laws of Virginia regarding marriage, all should agree that this sets a dangerous precedent. Justice and truth cannot be upheld when politicians simply ignore the law. If the governor or the attorney general of a state can just choose what is and what is not a civil right, we may not always like what they decide. We will like it even less when they arbitrarily change their minds with the vicissitudes of their political fortunes. If we accept that temporary officeholders in the executive branch can decide what the laws should be absent any direction from the legislature or the courts, but instead based purely on the agitation of their supporters, the consequences will inevitably lead to the subjugation and oppression of everyone.


Categories:Law Marriage Politics

  • Will

    My state has an over-active AG who sticks his nose in areas he should not. It is politics in 2014.

  • Arele

    This same sort of thing is happening in Oregon. Oregon currently defines marriage as between one man and one woman in our state constitution: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/judge-consolidates-oregon-gay-marriage-lawsuits-21631134

  • James Miller

    The fact that Herring is Attorney General of Virginia, and thus sworn to uphold the laws of Virginia, his refusal to do so makes him guilty of at the very least, malfeasance of office. What is the law of Virginia to remove elected officials who refuse to do the job the people expect? Impeachment? Jail? If I were in Virginia, I would at least be checking the possibilities.
    Justice is supposed to be blind, (meaning impartial) not stupid (meaning politically expedient).

  • Sheesh

    Still have yet to see how this expansion of civil rights will affect my marriage at all.

  • Sean Argir

    What I feel is that this article would be praising the attorney general if the current law was for same-sex marriage rather than against same-sex marriage as it currently is.

    I am for same-sex marriage and believe it should be legal in all 50 states. Two people of the same sex love each others just the same as two people of opposite sex can. If two same-sex individuals marry, it does nothing to destroy the love that two opposite sex people already married have.


      Sean – FYI for years now I’ve been asking some very smart people invested in opposing gay marriage 1) “How will gay marriage hurt my marriage, my sister’s marriage, my daughter’s marriage or will discourage straight people from marrying, and 2) “While “every child needs a mother and father,” how will not being able to marry stop lesbian couples from having children by insemination, and if they do, shouldn’t we do what we can to help stabilize these families for the sake of the kids if not the parents.” So far no answers and certainly no plausible scenarios.

    • Mike

      I love my mother, but that is no justification for the state to ratify me marrying her (which I would not). I suggest you investigate the true nature of marriage.



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