Thorne-Begland, Bob Marshall
Virginia Lawmakers Say No to Gay Judge on Bench

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com May 15 2012 3:59 PM ET

Virginia isn't ready for a gay judge, lawmakers decided this morning.

Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland had been nominated to Richmond’s 13th General District Court and would have been the state's first openly gay nominee to win confirmation. But he got only 33 votes instead of the 51 needed after Delegate Bob Marshall led social conservatives on a crusade against him.

Marshall claimed that Thorne-Begland is a "homosexual advocate." The former Naval aviator was honorably discharged after coming out on Nightline in the '90s, which opponents said shows his disregard for the law — referring to the now-defunct "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Marshall also complained that Thorne-Begland is in a committed relationship with his partner, with whom he's raising twins. Marshall pointed to their relationship as proof Thorne-Begland doesn't adhere to the state's constitution, which bans same-sex unions.

Thorne-Begland has at times been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights, serving on the board of Equality Virginia and working with the Human Rights Campaign on its Coming Out project. But Thorne-Begland's boss in Richmond says none of that should matter.

“It's hard to think about what happened in the General Assembly and not conclude that it's a form of bigotry,” Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael N. Herring told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It casts a definite pall on the state.”

For his part, the state's Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, tried to distance himself from fellow members of his party who made the decision.

“The governor has long made clear that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not acceptable in state government,” he said in a statement reported by The New York Times. McDonnell said nominees “must be considered based solely on their merit, record, aptitude and skill.”