RICHMOND, Va. — The GOP-controlled Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday voted to confirm the interim appointment of an openly gay judge to the Richmond General District Court.
Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland will remain on the bench after being approved in the House by a margin of 66-28, with one abstention and five members not voting — moments later, he won approval in the Virginia Senate, where 28 senators voted in favor, and 12 Republicans abstained.
The confirmation comes eight months after the General Assembly first rejected his nomination when questions about his sexual orientation, political activism and military service derailed his candidacy.
The conservative group The Family Foundation and virulently anti-gay Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) argued that Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation would conflict with his ability to hold up the state’s constitution.
In June 2012, the Circuit Court appointed Thorne-Begland, then the Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, to fill the Court’s vacancy after lawmakers failed to find a replacement.
“This is a big step forward after last year’s actions made embarrassing national headlines,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization.“Equality Virginia is pleased that the House of Delegates could see that Thorne-Begland is a qualified candidate with integrity and a long history of public service,” Parrish said. “Thorne-Begland has served his country and his city with honor and unquestioned competence first as a Navy pilot and then as a prosecutor.”
“We’re glad the House of Delegates took a second look at his candidacy and this time the decision was based on his qualifications and not on who he is or who he loves,” Parrish said.
Thorne-Begland, who lives with his partner and two adopted children, has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, particularly following his discharge from the U.S. Navy in the early 1990s under the now repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
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