RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has created an Office of Civil Rights within the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, an expansion that focuses on protecting Virginians from discrimination and other civil rights issues.
“The new designation of the Office of Civil Rights is the culmination of a multiyear plan to expand the authority and resources dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Virginians, and to place the protection of civil rights at the center of the mission of the Office of Attorney General,” a release from Herring’s office reads.
The office is an expansion of the existing Division of Human Rights, which was transferred to the Attorney General’s Office from the executive branch in 2012.
It will feature 13 staff, including 7 attorneys, up from the 1 attorney in Human Rights when Herring first took office, and tackle issues such as illegal policing, housing discrimination, LGBTQ and gender-based discrimination, employment discrimination and more.
Herring wants to make the new department announced Tuesday permanent through legislation. Legislation for 2021 was developed help from Del. Charniele Herring. Previous efforts by Del. Alfonso Lopez were blocked by Republican-controlled committees, Mark Herring says.
“Attorney General Herring has brought the office and role of attorney general so far in such a short time, and we want to make sure his focus on civil rights and equal opportunity remains central to the Office of Attorney General for generations to come,” said Del. Charniele Herring. “This legislation will send a clear signal that the Commonwealth believes in equality for all, and will actively work to protect the rights and dignity of all its people.”
The creation of the civil rights office was also a major cause of Herring’s challenger in the Democratic primary, Norfolk Del. Jay Jones. Jones on Tuesday called for a release of emails around the office’s creation, calling it politically motivated.
“The creation of an Office of Civil Rights is long overdue and has been a signature policy proposal of my campaign,” Jones said in a release. “Why did Mark Herring finally see the light after seven years of inaction? The creation of a Civil Rights Division is too important to be a mere political stunt for Herring’s reelection campaign. We must know if he acted in the interest of the commonwealth or if he used taxpayer funded resources to benefit his own reelection. Mark Herring pledged in 2013 to take ‘politics out of the Attorney General’s office’ but now in the middle of a re-election campaign he is using his government office to protect his own ambition.”
Herring is running for his third term in 2021. Del. Jason Miyares and Chuck Smith are running on the Republican side.
WAVY will have more coverage of the announcement coming up later today.