WASHINGTON — Virginia Republican delegate Robert Marshall, who led the efforts to derail the judicial nomination of an openly gay Richmond prosecutor, said in an interview on CNN Thursday morning that “sodomy is not a civil right.”
Marshall was defending his actions and that of fellow lawmakers and right wing christian conservative activists who opposed Tracy Thorne-Begland, who, had he been elevated to the General District Court Judgeship, would have been the first openly gay judge to serve in the state.
“Remember, it was a single judge in California who was in a same-sex relationship who invalidated 7 million votes out there. Moreover, if you have a barroom fight between a homosexual and a heterosexual, I am concerned about possible bias,” Marshall told CNN.
CNN’s Brooke Baldwin asked Marshall if his opposition was based solely on Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation, to which Marshall fired back with this statement:
“Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks never took an oath of office they broke,” said Marshall.
“Sodomy is not a civil right, it’s not the same as the civil rights movement. You have to look at the past. In late 2011, (Thorne-Begland) was critical of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
“He criticized our attorney general simply for explaining what the law of Virginia is with respect to certain protected classes. So, he has gone beyond that. He can be a prosecutor, if he wants to. We don’t want advocates as judges.”
Virginia’s GOP Governor Bob McDonnell publicly responded to the news by saying, “In my consideration of judicial candidates I only consider the individual’s ability to do the job well. If anyone voted against Mr. Thorne-Begland because of his sexual orientation, that would be very disappointing and unacceptable.”
James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia, told LGBTQ Nation Thursday afternoon that his organization was pleased with the Governor’s remarks, and hoped those sentiments would translate into more affirming considerations regarding legislative matters and issues pertaining to LGBT citizens in Virginia, particularly for the upcoming 2013 session.
“It’s embarrassing to have an elected official in Virginia making these type of comments,” Parrish said, noting that Thorne-Begland’s qualifications make the reasons for refusal appear to be less than credible.
Parrish said he felt that the silent majority of Virginians agree that Marshall and the other lawmakers voted out of ignorance, fear, and bigotry.
Speaking to MSNBC, William Eskridge, a Yale Law School professor and author of “Dishonorable Passions,” a book about the history of sodomy laws in America, rejected the contention that sodomy isn’t a civil right. He pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas decision, which struck down the criminal sodomy law in Texas – and by extension, other states – as unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence that anal or oral sex, commonly known as sodomy, when performed in private by consenting adults, is constitutionally protected — which makes it a civil right,” Eskridge said.