Lawmakers block gay advocate from Va. judge seat

Posted at 1:46 AM, May 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-15 13:52:58-04

CLICK FOR UPDATE: Commonwealth’s Attorney calls state judicial vote ‘bigotry’

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — The vote over Tracy Thorne-Begland’s nomination as judge to the Richmond General District Courts ran late into Tuesday morning. At 1:13 a.m. , Del. Jennifer McClellan (D – Richmond) announced lawmakers voted down Begland’s nomination 33-31 with 10 abstentions. He needed 51 votes.

Del. Bob Marshall (R -Manassas) wanted Thorne-Begland, who is openly gay, removed from consideration because of the prosecutor’s past involvement with the gay rights movement, most notably his network interview about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” [COMPLETE COVERAGE: Openly gay prosecutor denied judgeship]

“I don’t even think it’s proper to put his name forward because of his behavior,” said Marshall, who called Thorne-Begland “a homosexual activist,” in a press release.

“I would like to thank my sponsors, Senator Donald McEachin, and Delegates Jennifer McClellan and Manoli Loupassi and my family for their support,” Thorne-Begland said in a statement published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the city of Richmond and the great commonwealth of Virginia.”

Numerous advocates came forward in defense of Thorne-Begland's service to his country, in the Navy, and also as an esteemed prosecutor.

Earlier in the day, Governor Bob McDonnell said that the decision was completely up to the General Assembly, and he would only get involved if there was a dead-lock.

"All I can tell you is what I’ve always said about judges and that is that these ought to be merit based selections solely based on a persons, skill ability, fairness, judicial temperament," said Gov. McDonnell. "Issues of race, sex, sexual-orientation, wealth, “none” of those things should be factors in whether or not you put somebody on the bench."

After the vote, Del. Mark Kearn (D - Vienna) tweeted Begland was the first judicial nominee rejected by the House he could recall during his his three year in office:

Del. McClellan took to Twitter to argue Del. Marshall's stance that Begland was a gay rights activist was not true.

Del. Charniele Herring (D - Alexandria) apologized via Twitter for letting down both Begland and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As stated on, Equality Virginia’s James Parrish released the following statement:

"Equality Virginia is profoundly disappointed and dismayed that the Virginia General Assembly allowed fear mongering and shrill personal attacks by the Family Foundation and Delegate Bob Marshall to derail Richmond lawyer Tracy Thorne-Begland’s election to the bench simply because he is an out gay man.

Mr. Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor. Contrary to the Family Foundation’s shrill attack, the fact that Mr. Thorne-Begland chose to acknowledge his sexual orientation publicly and accept the consequences (an unwanted discharge from the military) rather than continue to live each day in a lie showed his honesty and integrity and respect for the law.

Mr. Thorne-Begland should be seen as a hero, like others whose celebrated civil disobedience helped bring change to unjust laws, rather than vilified as a law breaker by those who continue without reason to oppose basic human rights and nondiscrimination laws for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians.

The fact that the legislature caved in to the Family Foundation’s biased blathering is another unfortunate marker on the forced march to the past on which they seem determined to lead the Commonwealth."