Virginia House of Delegates rejects judicial nominee because he’s gay

*Unless you’re gay.
(Or black.)

The Virginia State Legislature is at it again.

Just after 1:00 am Tuesday morning, the GOP-controlled Virginia House of Delegates voted to block the appointment of an openly gay Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, Tracy Thorne-Begland, to the judgeship of the General District Court in Richmond.

Thorne-Begland’s nomination had received bipartisan support and had been approved by the courts committees in both the state House and Senate. Of the more than three dozen judicial nominees considered during the legislative session, Thorne-Begland was the only one not approved.

Thorne-Begland received only 33 of the 51 necessary “aye” votes in the House of Delegates to confirm him as a judge. 31 legislators, all Republicans, voted against him. Ten more Republicans abstained and another 26 members of the 100-member chamber did not vote. The State Senate did not put Thorne-Begland’s appointment up for a vote at all, allowing it to die as the legislative session ended.

There was no question as to Thorne-Begland’s qualifications for the judgeship. Following his discharge from the Navy after coming out on Nightline in protest of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, he began a career in law and worked his way up to becoming the Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Having served as a prosecutor for over twelve years he was considered highly qualified to sit on the General District Court. But a movement from the Family Foundation and Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) pushed back, arguing that his sexual orientation should have kept him from even being considered. Said Delegate Marshall:

I don’t even think it’s proper to put his name forward because of his behavior… I don’t know why the folks on the courts committee didn’t catch this before, but they didn’t. But it’s up to us to act as a backstop.

(As a side note, I’m going to go ahead and agree with Bill Maher’s statement that organizations with ‘family’ in their name are bigoted.)

The “folks on the courts committee” didn’t “catch” Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation beforehand because being gay doesn’t have anything to do with being a good judge; there wasn’t anything to “catch.” Virginia Republicans’ blatant disregard for Thorne-Begland’s qualifications and their rejection of him solely on the basis of his sexual orientation is, as FOX News’ Shep Smith would say, on the wrong side of history. Hate has no place in our government, and those who voted to block this appointment are creating a dark, embarrassing legacy for themselves.

Endnote: ProgressVA is circulating a petition denouncing homophobia’s role in determining qualified judicial nominees which can be found and signed here. Furthermore, a list of those voting “nay” or “abstaining” in Thorne-Begland’s appointment vote can be found here and here.


Jon Green is a graduate of Kenyon College with a degree in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. A veteran of the campaigns of Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and President Obama in 2012, he writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @JonGreen8, and on Google+. .

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