Virginia Appoints First Openly Gay Judge
Tracy Thorne-Begland, an openly gay prosecutor, has been appointed to the General District Court bench by the Richmond Circuit Court judges after the House of Delegates initially rejected his nomination last month.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Throne-Begland is the first openly gay judge in Virginia. He will occupy the bench in the 13th Judicial District in the Manchester courthouse starting July 1.
"I am humbled by the circuit court’s decision," Thorne-Begland said. "I look forward to serving the citizens of the city of Richmond as a jurist and, over the coming months, I hope that my service provides comfort to all Virginians that I remain committed to the faithful application of the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States of America."
In May, the Virginia General Assembly, which is ruled by Republicans, blocked Thorne-Begland’s nomination. The House of Delegates rejected his nomination by a vote of 33-31 with 10 abstentions.
Supporters were pleased that Thorne-Begland was finally appointed as a judge and claimed he was initially rejected because of his sexual orientation.
"Questions have been raised about his character, his record, his qualifications," Delegate Jennifer L. McLellan (D) said. "Yet there are some who say he’s not qualified simply because he told the truth about who he was, which many believe was the right thing to do."
Thorne-Begland has adopted twins with his partner and was honorably discharged from the Navy. He came out of the closet nearly two decades ago to protest the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" act.
Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R) was strongly against Thorne-Begland and campaigned against his nomination. The conservative said that Thorne-Begland is "an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda."
"Can this candidate swear the required oath to support our state’s constitution if he has already indicated by his past actions that he does not support that section of our Constitution barring same-sex legal relationships?" Marshall asked. "While our judges and judicial candidates certainly have a right to free speech, they do not have the right to disregard the Virginia Constitution."
Nevertheless, Thorne-Begland still has a number of backers, who supported his recent achievement.
"I applaud the circuit court judges for recognizing Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses," said Sen. A. Donald McEachin, (D), Thorne-Begland’s sponsor in the Senate.
"I have always thought he would be an outstanding jurist," said Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, (R), Thorne-Begland’s sponsor in the House. "And I’m sure he will be."