A Virginia lawmaker has launched an ugly public campaign against a judicial nominee. Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) contends that Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland is unqualified to serve in the Virginia General District Court because Thorne-Begland is openly gay.
The Washington Post reports that Marshall issued a statement calling Thorne-Begland an “an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda” and vowed to sponsor an amendment removing Thorne-Begland’s name from the list of judicial nominees.
Thorne-Begland was discharged from the Navy under the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 1992 and has also been involved with the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia. He and his partner have two adopted children.
“Can this candidate swear the required oath to support our state’s constitution if he has already indicated by his past actions that he does not support that section of our constitution barring same-sex legal relationships?” Marshall asked in his press release, according to Towleroad. Virginia’s constitution did not explicitly ban same-sex marriage until it was amended in 2006.
Marshall’s statement echoes accusations against former Judge Vaughn Walker in California. Equality opponents charged that Walker was unfit to rule about California’s Proposition 8, which revoked marriage rights for same-sex couples in that state, because Walker’s own same-sex relationship would bias him.
Delegate G. Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond), who sponsored Thorne-Begland’s nomination, points out that the issue of same-sex marriage is very unlikely to arise in the General District Court. Loupassi explained to the Washington Post that the General District Court’s primary function is to establish guilt and innocence in misdemeanor cases as well as probable cause in felony cases.
“[Thorne-Begland] is not going to be making decisions relative to some of the hot-button social issues,” Loupassi said.
The list of judicial nominees also includes two former delegates, C. L. “Clay” Athey Jr. and Clarence E. “Bud” Phillips, who “took many strong positions” in public, said Loupassi. “You can’t get any more political than being an elected political official … And we’re approving [Athey Jr. and Phillips].”
Loupassi added that Thorne-Begland was “absolutely well qualified” and that Thorne-Begland’s public statements about LGBT rights will not affect his ability to serve.
The Washington Post reports that Thorne-Begland has declined to comment.
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