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Gay Judge Candidate Rejected by Va. House Due to 'Advocacy' for Gay Rights

I am a native Marylander but I have lived in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., for almost two decades. I like it here quite a bit, but Virginia is quirky in that it is sharply divided in pretty much every way between the D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia and everywhere else. As I observed here,

Once you travel 100 miles south of D.C. and hit Richmond, you enter old-school Virginia -- the Virginia that makes you realize that you are in a state that was a full-blown part of the Confederate States of America.

Day-to-day, the cultural differences between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state are not really visible as those worlds don't collide much. But there are periodic flare-ups that serve as reminders of the state's deep conservative streak, such as Tuesday when the Virginia House of Delegates rejected Tracy Thorne-Begland, who is openly gay, for a judgeship in Richmond. The Washington Post reports that Thorne-Begland is a Richmond prosecutor who previously challenged the military’s "don't ask, don't tell" policy, has advocated for gay marriage and is raising twins with his partner.

Thorne-Begland's opponents argued that they voted against him not because he was gay, but rather because his advocacy "amounted to military insubordination and a challenge to the state constitution, which bans gay marriage and civil unions," the Post reports. Virginia Del. Robert G. Marshall objected to the fact that Thorne-Begland "holds himself out as being married," and called his life "a contradiction to the requirement of submission to the constitution.”

Marshall also seemed to compare Thorne-Begland to someone practicing polygamy:

"Let’s pretend they were Clarence Darrow, the best lawyer in the 20th century. If he were married to three women and applied to be a judge in Virginia, we'd say, 'No, hell no and never.' ... We do not recognize these other relationships at all, and they are outside our normative judgment criteria.”

These explanations did not persuade Thorne-Begland's supporters, or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is a Republican. “The only conclusions I can come to is that he was not supported because he was gay,” said Del. Charniele Herring, a Democrat who supported him. "We are on the wrong side of history on this one," added State Sen. Donald McEachin, a Democrat, who also supported Thorne-Begland.

Gov. McDonnell issued a statement saying that

judicial vacancies must be considered based solely on their merit, record, aptitude and skill. No other factors should ever be considered and the Governor has long made clear that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not acceptable in state government.

McDonnell's critics quickly shot back that McDonnell's own record undercut his words. The New York Times reports that when McDonnell himself was a Virginia state legislator, he headed the committee that "held hours of hearings and ultimately torpedoed the candidacy of a lesbian judge, Verbena Askew, whose sexual orientation was a central part of the debate."

Posted by Bruce Carton on May 16, 2012 at 04:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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