Virginia Swears in State’s First Openly Gay Judge
Tracy Thorne-Begland made history on Friday when he was sworn in as a judge on the Richmond General Court, which makes him Virginia's first openly gay judge, Richmond CBS-TV affiliate WTVR reports.
Thorne-Begland's road to becoming judge wasn't easy and at times controversial. In May, the Virginia General Assembly, which is predominantly ruled by Republicans, blocked the judicial nomination of Thorne-Begland. Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R) has strongly campaigned against Thorne-Begland and has even called him "an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda."
"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. "While our judges and judicial candidates certainly have a right to free speech, they do not have the right to disregard the Virginia Constitution."
Despite Marshall's opposition, Thorne-Begland had his share of supporters and in June he was appointed to the General District Court bench by the Richmond Circuit Court judges.
"I applaud the circuit court judges for recognizing Mr. Thorne-Begland's skill, qualifications and competency and putting aside bigotry, prejudice and false excuses," said Sen. A. Donald McEachin, (D), Thorne-Begland's sponsor in the Senate.
"I have always thought he would be an outstanding jurist," said Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, (R), Thorne-Begland's sponsor in the House. "And I'm sure he will be."
Thorne-Begland said he was "humbled" by the court'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," he said.
Nearly 200 people applauded and cheered as Thorne-Begland was sworn in. The newly appointed judge thanked his partner of 20 years and his two children. Additionally, the mayor of Richmond, Va., Dwight Jones, congratulated Thorne-Begland in a statement and said, "The City of Richmond was pleased to be able to host this historic event at City Hall today. Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland is a demonstrably competent addition to the bench and it is a joy to see this day come."