Gay prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland denied judgeship in Virginia


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

Lawmakers in Virginia rejected the judicial nomination of an openly gay prosecutor Tuesday after conservatives argued that he would press an activist agenda.

The Virginia House of Delegates voted 33-31, with 10 abstentions, against granting Tracy Thorne-Begland a judge's seat on the General District Court in Richmond. He needed a majority of the 100-member House to be confirmed, The New York Times reported.

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Thorne-Begland would have been the state's first openly gay judge.

A deputy commonwealth attorney in Richmond, Thorne-Begland first disclosed his sexual orientation nearly 20 years ago as a Navy pilot in defiance of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. He was honorably discharged after the disclosure, according to The Associated Press.

Thorne-Begland's boss, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney Michael N. Herring, said Tuesday's vote was an "embarrassment" for the state.

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“It's hard to think about what happened in the General Assembly and not conclude that it's a form of bigotry,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Herring said Thorne-Begland is a fine “man, father, lawyer Navy pilot, and would have been an outstanding judge.”

Conservatives, including Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican from Prince William County, argued that certain aspects of Thorne-Begland's biography meant that he could not be impartial if he was a judge, The New York Times reported.

Thorne-Begland did not comment on the vote in a statement, only saying, "I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of the city of Richmond and the great commonwealth of Virginia.”