Virginia’s first openly gay judge confirmed by General Assembly

After not receiving enough votes for a judicial appointment last year, the House of Delegates today elected Tracy Thorne-Begland to a full six-year term.

Tracy Thorne-Begland (beach)

Update #2 – January 15th; 1:37 PM

Today, the General Assembly elected Tracy Thorne-Begland, the state’s first openly gay judge, to a full six-year term to the Richmond General District Court. A former Navy pilot who twice opposed the military’s former Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, Thorne-Begland received 66 votes in favor of his appointment and 28 votes against in the House of Delegates (51 votes were needed). The Senate then followed with a 28-0 vote to confirm.

Last year, Thorne-Begland failed to receive enough votes for a full appointment.

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Update #1 — January 15, 2013; 7:15 AM

Yesterday, a House of Delegates committee unanimously certified the judicial candidacy of Tracy Thorne-Begland, the Commonwealth’s first openly gay judge. His nomination for a full, six-year term will now move to a House vote.

Last May, Begland was denied appointment to a vacancy on Virginia’s General District Court after he received only 33 of the 51 necessary votes by the House of Delegates. Many delegates objected to Begland because he had twice opposed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (the military revoked that policy in 2011).

In June 2012, Richmond Circuit Court judges appointed Begland to an interim judgeship to fill the vacancy.

Begland must now secure approval from the Commonwealth’s legislature to remain a judge. With yesterday’s certification by the House Courts of Justice Committee, Begland’s nomination will once again go before the House. Reports suggest that Begland has enough bipartisan support to secure the necessary votes in both the House and Senate.

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Original — June 14, 2012; 3:05 PM

Virginia has its first openly gay judge. Tracy Thorne-Begland will serve on a General District Court, a decision made Thursday by Richmond Circuit Court judges. Thorne-Begland, a current Deputy Commonwealth Attorney for the City of Richmond, will take over the judgeship on an interim basis.

In May, the House of Delegates rejected Thorne-Begland’s nomination because he had publicly opposed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the long-held policy that banned openly gay individuals from serving in the military. The decision sparked national coverage, largely critical of the legislative decision.

In a press release issued this afternoon, State Sen. Donald McEachin said:

“I applaud the circuit court judges for recognizing Mr. Thorne-Begland’s skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses. I have always had and continue to have the utmost confidence in Mr. Thorne-Begland’s ability to serve our community and I am gratified to see that the circuit court judges share my confidence.”

RVANews profiled Tracy Thorne-Begland in August 2011.

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photo courtesy of Tracy Thorne-Begland

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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