Committee first approved gay judicial candidate, some later flipped

Posted at 11:58 PM, May 16, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-18 00:11:19-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -As the dust settles from the controversial shake-up and down vote of openly gay judicial nominee Tracy Thorne-Begland, questions arise. 

Questions like; How did Thorne-Begland get approved initially, who turned in their votes, and why did one-third of the House not vote when they are elected to vote on such matters? 

The chairman of a House of Delegates judicial selection committee, along with some of the other members who certified Tracy Thorne-Begland to become judge just 60 days ago flipped in their support.

When it came to vote, the chairman of that committee voted against Thorne-Begland, and others in that committee didn't vote at all.

Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R - Richmond) sponsored Richmond’s Chief Deputy prosecutor to become a judge.

He says 60 days ago, Thorne-Begland went before the judicial selection committee.  In their possession was a questionnaire that Thorne-Begland filled out. CBS 6 obtained that document.

The document included facts such as he is gay, that he was vice-chair of a gay rights organization, and that he had advocated against national policy in the early 90's challenging “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
But Loupassi said none of the committee members questioned Thorne-Begland about those things—that would later become an issue, mainly vocalized by lawmaker Bob Marshall (R-Manassas).

“They did not ask him,” said Loupassi. “He was not asked.”

“He would have answered any question that was propounded to him because that’s why he was there,” said Loupassi.

The committee gave Thorne-Begland their approval.

But early Tuesday morning, his bid to become a judge was rejected, by some of those same committee members. They either voted No, or did not vote at all.

Paul Nardo, Clerk of the House of Delegates, said he`s never seen so many delegates vote against a judicial candidate in the 20 years he`s worked there.

“Because the question is put in the positive,” said Nardo. “So you vote yes, and anything else is no and in a judicial election we don`t usually count negative votes.”

Ben Cline, chair of the committee, admitted to CBS 6 that he called the Family Foundation about Thorne-Begland. The Family Foundation is a group that said it did not want the openly gay prosecutor to become a judge, in part because of what they see as his political activism.  But Cline insisted he speaks to the Family Foundation often, and voted against Thorne-Begland because he violated his oath in the Armed Forces.

Cline also admitted that he called other lawmakers, including Delegate Jackson Miller ( R ) - Manassas not to vote for Thorne-Begland. Miller ended up not voting at all.

Loupassi tells CBS 6, Thorne--Begland still has a shot at filling the spot of judgeship, should judges of Richmond's Circuit Court decide choose him  to fill the position. That will happen in January.