Justice Prevails: Former Prosecutor Appointed as VA’s First Openly-Gay Judge
Tracy Thorne-Begland, Navy-veteran, and former prosecutor will serve as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first-openly gay member of the judiciary following a decision by the Richmond Circuit Court. The court’s decision comes almost a month after the Republican-controlled House of Delegates rejected Thorne-Begland’s nomination. In blocking the nomination made by Gov. Bob McDonnell, antigay groups and members of the General Assembly cited Thorne-Belgand’s sexual-orientation and discharge from the Navy for coming out 20 years ago under "Don't Ask Don't Tell" as an impediment to his ability to remain impartial and uphold the law.
The Richmond Circuit Court’s decision to appoint Thorne-Begland to the District Court on an interim basis was met with praise by the Governor and many of the Members who denounced the blocking of his nomination as blatant discrimination.
Thorne-Begland had this to say of yesterday’s decision, “I look forward to serving the citizens of the city of Richmond as a jurist, and over the coming months I hope that my service provides comfort to all Virginians that I remain committed to the faithful application of the laws and constitutions of Virginia and the United States of America.”
This appointment serves as a monumental step forward in the movement to ensure that state judiciaries are reflective of the diverse citizenry they serve. The Richmond Circuit Court’s decision demonstrates that qualifications and commitment to justice—not sexual orientation—should be the defining characteristics in the selection of state and federal judges.