The Virginia General Assembly did not want to elect its first openly gay judge so Circuit Court judges in Richmond handled the task for them. Circuit judges chose the prosecutor to serve temporarily until the General Assembly reconvenes, their decision comes just one month after the legislative body voted against electing Tracy Thorne-Begland to the district court judge position.
In learning of his appointment state Senate Democrat A. Donald McEachin told the Washington Post
“I applaud the circuit court judges for recognizing Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses.
Richard Morris, a Republican in the state sent a letter to his colleagues in which he specifically spoke out against the judge’s decision, noting:
“My initial opposition to Mr. Thorne-Begland had nothing to do with his sexual orientation.”
Morris says he believed the judge broke the law after a two decade old TV appearance surfaced in which Thorne-Begland, then a Navy pilot came out as gay, despite the existence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell however Morris believed he was in uniform at the time he came out of the closet. The newly elected judge however was not in uniform. After coming out the judge was honorably discharged from his post.
It turns out that at least one Republican is against the judges appointment specifically because he is gay, Delegate Robert G. Marshall said the judges appointment would cloud his judgement since the Virginia constitution clearly states that marriage is between only a man and a women.
The Circuit Court judges were allowed to fill the seat after the General Assembly failed to nominate the openly gay judge after approving scores of other appointments in May.