In a vote that fell squarely along party lines, Virginia's House of Delegates voted today to deny a judicial nomination to Tracy Thorne-Begland, who would have become the state's first openly gay judge.
Thorne-Begland’s vote resulted in 33 “yes” votes to 31 “nay” votes. All 31 nay votes came from Republican delegates, who argued that his “lifestyle” and support for LGBT causes would make it impossible for him to be an impartial judge. Thorne-Begland required a 51-vote majority amongst House delegates to be approved.
More after the jump.
Thorne-Begland spent the last 12 years working as a state prosecutor. While his nomination was approved by House and Senate judicial committees, it was met with opposition after some Republicans began to question his impartiality, particularly when it came to the issue of same-sex marriage.
Thorne-Begland lives with his partner and their two children, but is not married. He came out publicly on Nightline while serving in the US Navy as a protest against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” He was honorably discharged as a result.
Republican Delegate Robert Marshall accused Thorne-Begland of pushing an "aggressive activist homosexual agenda,” claiming that Thorne-Begland "holds himself out as being married,” which makes his “life a contradiction to the requirement of submission to the constitution.”
Though he received support from both Democrats and Republicans politicians, including the state’s Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, Thorne-Begland’s nomination was met with too much opposition within the House.
Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring (Thorne-Begland's current boss), called the vote an "embarrassment" and said, “It's hard to think about what happened in the General Assembly and not conclude that it's a form of bigotry.”
Thorne-Begland's nomination wasn’t even allowed to come to a vote in the State Senate. Sen. A. Donald McEachin commented, saying, "This is not our finest hour." Sen. Adam Ebbin, acknowledged that the Senate "acceded to the homophobic behavior of the House."
Thorne-Begland was the only one of three dozen judicial candidates who was not approved on Tuesday.