Critics lambast House for rejection of judicial nominee

The Virginia House of Delegates is coming under intense criticism after the body refused to appoint Tracy Thorne-Begland as a Richmond General District Court judge because he is openly gay.

After receiving endorsements from the courts of justice committees in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, Thorne-Begland, who is currently chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney for the City of Richmond, appeared to have strong bipartisan support throughout the legislature.

According to news accounts, however, last-minute lobbying from the Family Foundation and Del. Robert G. Marshall, who expressed concerns that Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation would influence his judicial decisions, turned the tide.

In the end, Thorne-Begland received only 33 of the 51 votes needed in the House of Delegates to secure the judgeship.

Kent Willis, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, issued a statement decrying “any governmental process in which stereotyping based on race, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation is involved.”

“At one time or another, the ACLU of Virginia has found common ground with almost every legislator, and we have worked hand in hand with the most socially conservative groups in the state when our goals are similar. But everyone involved in this ugly episode should be ashamed of themselves. It is bad enough that Virginia has generally taken the slow road to LGBT equality, but it is even worse for state officials to exercise such appallingly disgraceful bigotry in such an important government function,” Willis said.

State Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, called Thorne-Begland, a former Navy pilot, a “highly qualified and exceptionally competent prosecutor.”

“The blatant prejudice that Republicans displayed last night should have no place in our government. The GOP took Virginia back to the bigotry and mean-spirited prejudice of the 1960s. I thought we had made more progress toward a just society than this,” McEachin said.

“The only criteria legislators should apply when selecting judges are that person’s ability to fairly and impartially weigh the law. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s qualifications for appointment to the bench were unimpeachable, but Republicans cynically voted against his appointment just because he was gay,” McEachin said.


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