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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia's attorney general has officially joined a lawsuit challenging the state's 2006 ban on gay marriage.

Attorney General Mark R. Herring argues in a brief filed Thursday in federal court that the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. He calls marriage a fundamental right and the ban discriminatory.

The brief was filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, where two couples are taking on the ban.

A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30 before a judge who was nominated by President Barack Obama.

Herring's decision marks a seismic political shift in Virginia, a battleground state in the national fight to grant same-sex couples the right to wed. It comes less than two weeks after he took office in an historic Democratic sweep of the state's top political offices.

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