Tracy Thorne-Begland appointed as Virginia's first openly gay judge


A gavel rests on top of a desk in the courtroom of the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum in Miami. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


Joe Raedle

Tracy Thorne-Begland's was appointed as Virginia's first openly gay judge on Thursday, after initially being rejected by the General Assembly, the Washington Post reported.

The prosecutor's ascent to the judge's bench was blocked last month by legislators who objected to his opposition to the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Thorne-Begland, a former naval aviator, challenged DADT by announcing his sexual orientation on a network interview in 1992, around the time former President Bill Clinton had discussed getting rid of the policy, WTVR reported.

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“I think it’s highly imprudent and arrogant on their part,” said Republican Delegate Robert Marshall, who along with the Family Foundation of Virginia helped convince the General Assembly that Thorne-Begland was unfit for the bench. “I hope Virginia understands what’s going on here: They’re contesting the authority of the General Assembly here. . . . This is an act of defiance on their part. When appointed officials get in fights with elected officials, they invariably lose.”

Thorne-Begland’s District Court judgeship is temporary, and will last only until the next General Assembly session, according to the Post. The 45-year-old did not immediately say whether or not he will accept the appointment, which requires the final assent of the legislature to go into effect, according to the Virginian-Pilot. 

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“I applaud the circuit court judges for recognizing Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses," State Senator Donald McEachin said in a press release Thursday, RVA News reported. "I have always had and continue to have the utmost confidence in Mr. Thorne-Begland’s ability to serve our community and I am gratified to see that the circuit court judges share my confidence.”