Thorne-Begland, Bob Marshall
Gay Judicial Nominee Could Be Denied Because of Marriage Support

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com May 14 2012 11:08 AM ET

The nomination of a Virginia prosecutor to be a state judge is being challenged because one state delegate fears he is a "homosexual advocate."

Former Naval aviator Tracy Thorne-Begland, honorably discharged after coming out on Nightline in the '90s, has a record of supporting LGBT rights. He worked with the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out project and served on the board of Equality Virginia. And even though Thorne-Begland would be dealing with misdemeanors and felonies, state delegate Bob Marshall wants his name stricken from a list of nominees to be voted on today.

Marshall says the gay nominee’s support for marriage equality disqualifies him.

“Can this candidate swear the required oath to support our state’s constitution if he has already indicated by his past actions that he does not support that section of our constitution barring same-sex legal relationships?" Marshall said in a statement. “While our judges and judicial candidates certainly have a right to free speech, they do not have the right to disregard the Virginia constitution.”

Marshall specifically called out the fact that Thorne-Begland has a partner among the reasons he shouldn't be allowed on the bench. The delegate’s last-minute alarm follows closely on the heels of a news release by the Family Foundation, a right-wing group in Virginia, which claimed Thorne-Begland has a "homosexual agenda" that he’d try to advance as a criminal judge for Richmond’s 13th General District Court.

The group says Thorne-Begland had supposedly told Richmond Magazine, “In Virginia, we’re seeing a different situation. The situation is so hostile to gay and lesbian interests, particularly the judicial system, a lot of gay and lesbians choose to leave.” And his concern about the judicial system really has the Family Foundation wondering what he would do as a judge.

Delegate G. Manoli Loupassi, a Richmond Republican, is sponsoring Thorne-Begland's nomination and told The Washington Post that fellow politicians are also being considered for judgeships today.

“We’ve got a Democrat and a Republican who were both elected officials,” Loupassi told the Post. “They took many strong positions. You can’t get any more political than being an elected political official…. And we’re approving them.”

Family Foundation officials said they want to fight the appointment of LGBT judges even in lower courts because "there is additional concern that, once appointed, a progressively minded judge would be fast-tracked by a liberal governor or president to a higher court, such as the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals."